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Baba Yaga will eat you up

Veselka dancers bring Slavic folklore to life
Veselka Ukranian Dancers starring in Baba Yaga’s Supper. From left

Children beware, Baba Yaga is coming to life.

The Veselka Ukrainian dance school is premiering Baba Yaga’s Supper, an original Ukrainian folk ballet based around the historic character, Sunday (May 19) at the McPherson Playhouse.

Danielle Dojack, a Veselka instructor, plays Baba Yaga, a forest witch of Slavic folklore who is all kinds of wicked. Chief among her evils is a disturbing appetite for children.

Worry not, the show is happily for all ages.

Artistic director Lisa Hall created the storyline and choreographed the dance, which uses all 45 dancers from the school, ages three to 20, based out of the studio located in the Ukrainian Cultural Centre on Douglas Street.

Baba Yaga is more than just an ugly old witch. She’s powerful, with a bent back, and a face covered in warts. Her gray hair hasn’t been washed or trimmed in hundreds of years and her clothing is rags.

“Traditionally Baba has a sister too. They like to eat children and go into villages to steal them but generally, wisdom prevails,” Hall said.

It’s Hall’s second original performance, having written and choreographed King of the Crows for the Veselka school’s 40th anniversary two years ago. That was also performed at the McPherson, a tradition the school hopes to continue.

At the centre of the plot is the axe-wielding Vasyl, a travelling man, played by Nathan Kuehne, and Romanka, played by Elizabeth Kuroyedov, who is best described as “smitten with Vasyl.”

There’s a horse, played by Jocelyn Mihalynuk, who’s actually a young woman cast into equine form at the hands of Baba Yaga.

And there’s Baba Yaga’s house, inhabited by hench toads, and standing on chicken legs. True to form, the chicken leg driven cabin is mobile and will be on the move throughout the performance.

“The story is about how far people might go to satisfy their desires, the risks of our acquisitive society, and the wise counsel of true and trusted friends,” said producer Valerie Kuehne.

Romanka seeks Baba Yaga the witch in the quest for a love potion to fulfill the young woman’s dream of being with Vasyl. In trade,  Romanka promises to help procure children for Baba Yaga’s supper.

The Veselkas recently performed as part of the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival and will be on stage at Beacon Hill for Heritage Day on June 15.

Showtime for Baba Yaga is Sunday is 7 p.m. at McPherson Playhouse.

Tickets are $18, available through the McPherson and Velselka websites.