Gwen Hanke

Celebrating her 42nd year as an instructor, Gwen continues to demonstrate a sincere and purposeful dedication to the evolving art of Ukrainian Dance. Not only enthusiastic but ambitious, she is consistently focused on the delivery of exemplary dance training and instruction beginning with the young (3-4 years old), up to the young at heart (adults) -- and all levels in between.

Captivated by the energy, costumes and choreographic movements, Gwen began her Ukrainian Dance Training at the age of three. Classes in Ballet (R.A.D) were added to her weekly schedule to enrich and complement her ongoing dance training. At the age of 14, she joined the Dnipro Ensemble, travelling to Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines. Recognizing the need to study other dance disciplines and learn from different teachers as a necessary component to her overall expertise, Gwen attended the dance diploma program at Grant MacEwan College in Edmonton. Her dance skills were augmented daily with studies in ballet, jazz, modern, and character dance. Gwen was extremely fortunate to have benefited from the insightful and precise training provide by the esteemed instructors of David Adams (Ballet), Gail Leonard (Ballet), Brain Webb (Modern) and Charlene Tarvener (Modern). She then joined the world renowned Ukrainian Shumka Dancers, where she not only performed for 8 years but served on the executive as well as the artistic committee, and was entrusted with creating and running a warm up regiment for the company members. This ignited her desire to share her Ukrainian culture through dance.

Whether as a dancer or instructor, Gwen has actively engaged herself in many regional dance workshops to broaden and enhance her knowledge, understanding and skill in the lexicon of regional Ukrainian Dance. In addition to twice attending the well-known Ukrainian Dance workshop in Glen Spey, New York under the direction of Roma Prima, other workshop instructors have included Lusia Pavylchenko, Serhij Koroluk, Victor Stepovy, Bohdan Tkachyshyn and John Pichlyk.

Gwen has held instructor positions with the Shumka School of Dance (1989-1991), Gibbons Vaselli Dancers (1992-1993), and the Veeteretz School of Ukrainian Dance Association (1978-present). Her sense of duty and responsibility to the healthy continuance of authentic Ukrainian Dance has led her to serve as a mentor to new instructors. Under her guidance and direction, instructors receive relevant and on-going feedback based on sound pedagogy based on face-to-face tutelage.

Teaching dance camps has been one way in which she has been able to effectively share her passion for dance with Ukrainian dancers of the future. Gwen has not only taught workshops throughout Alberta sponsored by AUDA (Alberta Ukrainian Dance Association) but has also coordinated and instructed workshops hosted by Veeteretz for the past 20+ years. She feels very fortunate to have shared the �workshop stage� with the Zhenia Bahri (Artistic Director of Volya) and Vitali Sorotoguaine (Artistic Director of Yevshan).

Gwen's adjudication experience include the following: Southern Ukrainian Dance Festival (1997), Hafford, SK (2000), Peace River (2001), Vermilion (2002), Vegreville (2003), Russel, MB (2004) and Yorkton, SK (2014).

Gwen is a recognized master of choreography. Amongst her most noteworthy festival awards, Gwen was recognized for her choreographic talent by being a three-time recipient of the prestigious Don Chomlak Ukrainian Dance Choreography Award at the Vegreville Ukrainian Pysanka Festival. Whether in a group regional dance or character piece, she is astutely skillful in her ability to intertwine movement and culture into a presentation that is not only precise and artful, but seamlessly impressive and entertaining. Her character dances have been an audience/festival favourite over the years and Gwen cites her grandparents, Sergi and Paraska Andruik as the inspiration for many of her dance formations and character number themes. Most recently, Gwen was nominated as Instructor of the Year, sponsored by Ukrainian Dance World.

Inspired by her passion and love for dance and deep-rooted ties to the Ukrainian culture, and drawing from her experiences as an educator, knowledgeable instructor and respected adjudicator, Gwen founded the Veeteretz Ukrainian Dance Festival (VUDF). This filled a much needed void in the Alberta Ukrainian Dance Community. The 'VUDF' is celebrating twelve years and continues its commitment to providing aspiring Ukrainian dancers with a learning environment that is not only positive and encouraging, but intended to offer dancers opportunities to enhance personal growth as well as strive towards higher levels of achievement in Ukrainian Dance. Providing dancers with a competitive environment dedicated to high artistic standards, generates a celebratory and rewarding atmosphere. As founder and festival chair, Gwen is proud of the recognition that the Veeteretz Festival has received as an event that builds deeper awareness and richer understanding of Ukrainian heritage.

In addition to her instructing responsibilities, Gwen is currently the President and Artistic Director of the Veeteretz School of Ukrainian Dance Association where she is instrumental in coordinating the committed dancers, the dedicated and creative instructors and the volunteer efforts of the parents, into a cohesive, collaborative force. This spirited force of Veeteretz is devoted to maintaining the dance standards of excellence which the instructors and dancers have set for themselves in the heart of North Edmonton.

Gwen's meticulous planning, insightful knowledge, detailed feedback and creative abilities have been recognized and celebrated beyond the dance studio walls. As an educator of 30 years, she is not only the proud recipient of 'Teacher of the Year' awarded by GRIT (Getting Ready for Inclusion Today), but was also nominated for an 'Excellence in Teaching Award' within Edmonton Public Schools.

Whether it's teaching elementary school or Ukrainian dance, Gwen is able to include all children, teach all children and find each child's unique gifts. She remains inspired by the youthful energy of the students with which she works -- whether in the classroom or in the dance studio. More importantly than the countless choreographic awards and teaching achievements that span her career, are the connections to her dance students of the past and present. It is these relationships that remind her why she continues to teach and learn.