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Dancer turned politician reflects Shumka success
Jessica Earle, ctvedmonton.ca
Published Sunday, November 22, 2009 7:33PM MST
The Jubilee Auditorium was bursting at the seams Saturday night, as Edmontonians gathered for Red boots, Black Tie & Bubbly: Shumka's Golden Gala - the 50th annual fundraiser for one of the oldest and most famous dance troupes in Canada.
One of the guests in attendance was Gene Zwozdesky. Though he now spends his time serving as the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in Alberta's legislature, the politician has a storied history with the dance company: he was a Shumka dancer for six years and wrote, composed and conducted music for the troupe for another 25 years after thereafter.
"I can remember performing here as a rookie Shumka dancer back in 1963. It was the thrill of a lifetime... and it's a memory I cherish forever," said Zwozdesky.
According to the minister, Shumka dance is the flagship of Ukrainian culture in our country, and he believes it plays a major role in inspiring the estimated 10,000 Albertans who currently study Ukrainian dance.
"The best nomenclature I can give you is Shumka has always been viewed as a jewel in the crown of Canada. It's a cultural icon for the province of Alberta and a tremendous ambassador for the city of Edmonton," he said.
"It's the oldest Ukrainian dance group that we have that has maintained its roots, and its culture and its traditions."
Though Zwozdesky takes pride in the heritage the Shumka dance troupe, he says the true power of the company is its ability to reinvent itself, keeping audiences mesmerized generation after generation.
With more than $125,000 raised during Saturday night's gala, future visions for Canada's oldest Ukrainian dance company look bright.