Ukrainian Folk Dances: History, Classification, and Gopak






Ukrainian folk dances are an important part of the country’s culture. They have a long and varied history and can be classified into several different types. One of the most popular Ukrainian dances is the gopak. This dance is characterized by its fast tempo and energetic movements. It is often performed to lively music with a strong beat. This blog post will explore the history, classification, and basic movements of Ukrainian folk dances!

What is Ukrainian dancing?

Ukrainian folk dance has a long, illustrious history, full of sentiments and adventures from many generations of Ukrainians. Ukrainian folksongs and dances are renowned throughout the world for their national flavor and strength of spirit, emotional intensity, musical distinctiveness, rhythm, and movement.

Folk dance is the soul of the people, its beauty and greatness. Touching, lyrical round dances, incendiary everyday life dances, figurative and thematic, plot dances reveal everyday life, rituals and traditions, life of freedom-loving Ukrainian people.

Ukrainian dancing is a traditional form of dance that originated in Ukraine. It is characterized by its fast-paced, energetic movements, and is often performed to traditional Ukrainian folk music. Today, Ukrainian dancing is enjoyed by people all over the world and is a popular form of entertainment at Ukrainian cultural events. It is also a popular competitive sport, with dancers often competing in regional, national, and international competitions.

In this video you can watch learning one of the elements of Ukrainian folk dance.

History of Ukrainian folk dances

The history of Ukrainian folk dance is a long one, full of emotions and experiences of many generations of the nation. The formation of Ukrainian folk dances were influenced in one way or another by all the tribes, nations that participated in ethnogenesis.

The history of Ukrainian choreographic culture has its roots in antiquity, in particular to the generous riches of national folklore spring games and lyrical maiden roundelays of Kievan Rus, sparkling heroic dances of desperate Cossacks and mass spectacle-competitions of Zaporizhian Sich.

The most ancient traces of dancing art in Ukraine are considered to be the drawings of the Tri-Polish time, where the figures of people who put one hand on the waist and the other arm behind the head are depicted. Similar movements are found in modern dances as well.

The image of dancers and musicians is on the frescoes of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (XI century). Dances can also be found in many miniatures from ancient chronicles. The another recorded mention of Ukrainian dancing dates back to the year 988.

Over time, Ukrainian dancing developed into a more formalized art form. In the 17th and 18th centuries, professional Ukrainian dancers known as kobzari and lirnyky began to perform at royal courts and in public squares. These dancers were often skilled musicians as well, and would frequently accompany their dancing with live music.

The colorful Ukrainian dance first appeared on stage in I. Kotlyarevsky’s play Natalka Poltavka (1819, Poltava). In 1906, M. Sadovsky’s theater was created; in his performances, dance is no longer a copy of life, but an organic artistic generalization. Among the best choreographers of that period were Vasily Verkhovinets, V. Avramenko, Pavel Virsky, and Nikolai Bolotov.

Pavel Virsky became the organizer and permanent leader of the ensemble from 1955 to 1975. P. Virsky’s figurative dance art is always unexpected and bright. In his productions familiar and widely known movements acquire new emotional meaning. Canonical structures blossom with fresh patterns, traditional ones are colored with original shades, unique coloring.

The Virsky Ensemble still exists to this day. They have an active concert activity, the ensemble is popular all over the world. If you want to get acquainted with the Ukrainian folk dance, go to a concert of this ensemble.


Classification of Ukrainian Dancing

There are many different types of Ukrainian dancing, each with its own unique style and history. The most popular type of Ukrainian dancing is the Hopak, which is a traditional folk dance that originated in Ukraine.

Classification of Ukrainian dance differs including the criteria. For example, Virsky distinguished three types of folk dances according to the number of performers:

  1. mass
  2. pairs
  3. solo

According to the nature of musical accompaniment:

  1. Gopaki
  2. kozachki
  3. mazurkas
  4. quadrilles
  5. polkas

Other popular types of Ukrainian dancing include Kozachok, Hutsulka, Kolomiyka, Round dance, and Metelitsa.

Round dance

The round dance is a Ukrainian folk dance that is often performed in a large circle. It is usually accompanied by music, and sometimes by singing.


The dance is believed to have originated in pagan times and was later adopted by Christians. It is thought to represent the sun, as it revolves around a central point.

Round dances are still popular today and are often danced at weddings and other celebrations. They are also a popular form of exercise, as they require little space and can be done indoors or out. At present, roundelays have lost their religious significance and are used by the people as ordinary amusements. They have firmly entered the repertoire of professional and amateur performance groups.


Kozachok is similar to gopak, but it is less acrobatic and more lyrical. This dance is energetic, cheerful, and incendiary. In the beginning, the tempo is moderate, but as it continues it speeds up.

The origin of the name is associated with the life of the Cossack warriors (in the k. The name originated from the life of the Cossack warriors. In the second part of the drama “Vertep” the central character was a Cossack-Cossack, who played the bandura, sang and danced well. This dance was called the Cossack dance). The dance is characterized by:

  • perform only in pairs, size 2/4, without complicated tricks;
  • the participation of girls gives the dance tenderness, lyricism, softness;
  • improvisation and humorous elements are welcome.

Kozachok is a very popular folk dance in Ukraine; it is also popular in other countries, such as Poland and Romania.


The Hutsulka is a Ukrainian folk dance that originated in the Hutsul region of Ukraine. It is characterized by its intricate footwork and fast, energetic movements.

The Hutsulka is traditionally danced by couples, who perform a series of turns and spins while keeping their feet close to the ground. The dance is often accompanied by fast-paced folk music played on traditional instruments such as the accordion or bandura.


The Kolomiyka is a Ukrainian folk dance that originated in the city of Kolomyia, in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of Ukraine. It is a fast-paced, lively dance that is often performed in pairs or pairs of performers, standing in a circle.

Kolomyka is also a dance song of the same name, serving as an accompaniment to dance or existing separately from it. The dance is performed to the accompaniment of short songs humorous character, less often historical, of everyday life with a similar name.

It is distinguished by the richness of dance movements, colourfulness of choreographic pattern, brisk tempo performance, bright coloring.


The Ukrainian folk youth dance is a fast-paced round dance with changes in figures and circles that resemble a snowstorm. It’s a winter festival dance for youngsters that are usually held in the village square or on a frozen lake during the winter season.

The snowstorm can be performed with singing or with music. “Blizzard” is based on several simple movements. The dance’s main action is the “step-run” sliding motion, which is punctuated by stamping the heels on the ground in intricate patterns. The dance is performed mostly by women.

What clothes are worn for Ukrainian traditional dances?

For many Ukrainian dances, traditional clothing is worn. This often includes a shirt or blouse with embroidery, a skirt or trousers, and a headscarf.

The type of clothing worn depends on the region where the dance originated. For example, dancers from the Hutsul region often wear brightly-colored clothing with intricate patterns, while dancers from the Poltava region tend to wear more subdued colors and simple designs.

In general, Ukrainian dancers try to wear clothes that are representative of their region and its culture. This helps to create a sense of unity among the dancers and also makes the dances more visually appealing to spectators.

What is the Dance Gopak (Hopak)?

The Zaporozhian Cossacks’ dance began in the 16th and 18th centuries as a solo dance. Gopak allowed Cossacks to display their strength, courage, dexterity, and fighting skills. As a result, it was originally a male-only dance.

In folk culture, the dance evolved and became predominantly a pair dance. It’s done on the spur of the moment, just like it was before. After circling the group, a young man comes to a stop in front of the lady he desires to dance with and asks her to do so.

The sequence begins, with the woman dancing modestly and maintaining respect while, at the same time, conveying a tinge of irony and mischief. The guy pirouettes around her, displaying his expertise and skill “knees.” She tries to outsmart him by evading him; the guy does not give up though and attempts to block her path.

Speaking of Ukrainian folk dances, it should be When talking about Ukrainian folk dances it is necessary to note that often the same dance in different Locations may have different names. For example, the now well-known Ukrainian dance “Gopak” has other For example, the now famous Ukrainian dance “Gopak” has other names: “Gotsak”, “Kazak”, “Kazachok”, “Tropak” and so on.

What are the basic movements in Ukrainian folk dances?

Most Ukrainian folk dances involve simple movements that can be easily learned by anyone regardless of their dancing experience. Many of these dances are performed in a circle, with the dancers holding hands. Some of the most common movements seen in Ukrainian folk dances include turning, spinning, and leaping. These movements help to create a sense of energy and excitement among the dancers and also make the dances more visually appealing to spectators.

A few of the most popular steps and movements are called ” The Rope,” “Vykholesniki,” ” Walks” (seizures), and Dance Runs.


Ukrainian folk dances are an important part of Ukrainian culture. They are a way for people to connect with their heritage and celebrate their traditions. These dances are enjoyed by Ukrainians of all ages and backgrounds. Today, folk dances under the influence of professional dancers have ceased to be folk dances and have lost their local characteristics and accessibility to mass performance. Today, young people perform Ukrainian dances only on stage. This allows Ukrainians to preserve and appreciate the richness and diversity of their culture and roots.

Whether you are a seasoned dancer or have never danced before, you can enjoy these lively and vibrant dances. So put on your dancing shoes and let’s get started!

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