There are few visions as exquisite as brightly clad Ukrainian women tiptoeing, arm-in-arm, in unison, as if they were finely carved porcelain. And there is hardly a more invigorating sight than a mass of Ukrainian men who bend deep into the floor and bound up again in one graceful sweep of power and endurance.
These dances aren’t easy. Yet, the men and women of Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company made them appear so on Wednesday night at The Egg. There, the 60-member ensemble demonstrated vigor, poise and fireworks while giving the audience a survey of its country’s beloved folk traditions.
The company, hailing from Ukraine, has been to the area before. Its last stop was in 2004 at Proctors in Schenectady. On that tour, the group traveled with its merry band of musicians. This time around, Virsky scaled back. The Egg showcased dancers only, with canned music. But the eye-boggling color and life was unmistakably Virsky, and undeniably irresistible.
The tireless troupe got the evening off to a dazzling start. The women, resplendent in heavily embroidered skirts, vests and blouses, entered first. In their red boots, they inch forward with such tiny steps that they appear to ride an invisible crest. Their formations were unshakably perfect. Each head was tilted just so, their carriages were held regally and their hands were opened in friendship.
As the women smiled widely at the crowd, the men began to deploy behind them. The women retreated into the background, giving way to the men who grabbed center stage and all the attention with their high jinx — triple turns, knee bends, bounces and barrel turns.
With each new trick, the tempo rose. Those not throwing themselves into the air or diving to the floor clapped their hands to the rapid beat. It was a breathless, beautiful and almost overwhelming display of their incredible capabilities.
There was hardly a quiet moment with Virsky. With no musical interludes, the dancers rushed from one vibrant number to the next, with hardly a breath in between.
The women were stunners. The kozachok, for example, was performed by a group of women in knee-length skirts that fanned out like bells as they spun and spun and spun. They also performed the “little willow” dance as if they were tree branches, arcing and swaying in a spring breeze. In each of their dances, their precision patterns were executed with Rockette perfection. If they were not so lovely, you’d think they were robots.
The swaggering men, who stole the show, were allowed a tad of leeway to break rank. With a wink and a nod, they performed some heart-stopping feats — jumps in which they landed on their knees, no-hand cartwheels, low kicks and spins galore.
As you tried to absorb their zany bounce low, jump up and kick, they bewildered by flying into yet another impossible deed. Most enjoyable were the Cossack dance, in which they hammered spears into the ground and the jaunty sailor dance in which they pulled out more breezy shenanigans. By now, we thought nothing more could be done.
The finale was perfect. Like the opener, they joined together in proper formation. As the women made a decorative frame around the rim of the stage, the men delighted with the rousing hopak. Virsky left its audience euphoric.