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Masha Pruss sings spring song
photo by Alexander Khantaevo

Marian Celander reads Wanda Phipps
photo by Alexander Khantaev

Inka Juslin dances
photo byAlexander Khantaev

Julian Kytasty & Erden Tairov perform poem by Khan Ghazi Gerey
photo by Alexander Khantaev

Soozie Hwang & the Relastics
photo by Alexander Khantaev


Light & Shadow

Yara’s Winter Festival of New Art, Music, Performances, Poetry and Video

Fri Jan 17 -- opening of art and video exhibits with readings by poets and writers
Sat Jan 18 -- Yara Arts Group performances and Soozie Hwang and the Relastics
party with food by Olesia Lew
Sun Jan 19 -- "the curious case of the sidewalk tree" shadow puppet show by Watoku Ueno

Ukrainian Institute of America
2 East 79th Street at Fifth Avenue, New York


  The unique winter festival created by Virlana Tkacz has now become a New York tradition during the Christmas-New Year season. Each festival she organizes, introduces us to new artists and discoveries. It leaves us with a lot to ponder afterwards - as experimental art should.
            This year’s three-day celebration was called “Light and Shadow: a Festival of New Art, Music, Performance, Poetry and Video” and was held at the Ukrainian Institute of America. It presented you with puzzles as soon as you walked through the door. Before you ascended to the second floor and the main stage, you had to pass through a virtual birch forest by Volodymyr Klyuzko and had to think about your journey as you watched a video by Kateryna Babkina and Serhiy Hvozdyk. As you walked up the stairs, you encountered art works that were reflections of reality by the well-known artist Petro Hrychyk.
            When you headed up to the third floor you faced “The Hutusl Koliada,” photographs by Alexander Khantaev. All the artistic experiments both traditional and non-traditional were embodied in an icon-pysanka by Sofika Zielyk, original is both its form and execution: Our Lady was delicately drawn in black and white on a gigantic egg that was unusually round. It seemed to both exemplify and answer many of the questions posed.
            Three days of concerts, poetry readings, dances and shadow puppet performances were presented in the midst of the visual art exhibition.
            The organizers and the coordinators of the festival invited many talented artists of both of Ukrainian and other heritages: Julian Kytasty, Wanda Phipps, Anya Farion, Annette Friedman, June Kim, Watoku Ueno, Katya Grokhovsky, Mikahil Shraga and Bob Holman… Also included was food artist Olesia Lew, who as always presented traditional Ukrainian foods in a sophisticated modern style.
            This year’s art festival was made possible by the support of the Self-Reliance FCU, the Coca-Cola Company, Global Commitment Foundation and the cultural funds of the State and City of New York, as well numerous supporters of Yara Arts Group head by Virlana Tkacz.

Kateryna Kindras, Nova Gazeta (New York) January 23, 2014

Through her arts festival "Light & Shadow," Virlana Tkacz transformed the Ukrainian Institute of America, located in a magnificent manse on Museum Mile in New York City, into an arena of creativity, music, magic and mystery.
           The three-day festival opened on Friday, January 17, with a dance performance by Inka Juslin, with Julian Kytasty accompanying her on bandura. The Ukrainian Village Voices sang traditional village songs, followed by Olena Jennings and Iryna Shuvalova reading their own works and Katya Grokhovsky read her "Breathless." Yara Arts Group artists Bob Holman, Susan Hwang and Mr. Kytasty concluded the evening with their performance of excerpts from the latest piece by Virlana Tkacz, "Capt. John Smith Goes to Ukraine."
           The program on January 18 opened with "Ice," taken from Ms. Tkacz's production of "Fire. Water. Night." and performed by members of the Yara Arts Group.
           Next, a series of readings was presented, all having been translated from the Ukrainian by Ms. Tkacz and Wanda Phipps. "A Fool For the Breathing" by Ms. Phipps was read by Marina Celander and Charles Nicholson. The Taras Shevchenko poem "A Cloud" was performed by Stefka Nazarkewycz and Mr. Nicholson. Serhiy Zhadan's "All Night Long She Sings" was read by Masha Pruss and Romana Soutus. "A Strong Wind," based on poem by Uvavnuk, with music by Alla Zagaykevych, was sung by Yara Arts Group, their voices replicating the echoing wind. Ms. Nazarkewycz and Mr. Nicholson read "Rhythm" by Pavlo Tychyna.
           "Nizhnist (Tenderness)" by Kateryna Babkina, which insightfully inspected this emotion that lives inside all of us, was read by Ms. Pruss, Julia Dobner-Pereira, Ms. Soutus and Ms. Celander. Appropriately, that was followed by "Rano, Rano," sung by the Yara Arts Group. Accelerating hand claps against the steady rhythm of the song provided an exciting counterpoint to this traditional women's song from Polissia. Another work by Ms. Babkina, "She Never Goes to the Movies Alone," was read by Ms. Dobner-Pereira and Ms. Pruss. That was followed by Ms. Phipps reading her "Wall of Words."
           The composition by Mariko Pajalahti, "Awakening," was danced by Ms. Juslin, with Mr. Kytasty on bandura and Ms. Pajalahti singing her work, against the backdrop of projections by Volodymyr Klyuzko.
           Christina Lillian Turczyn read her work "Poem." The duo of Erdem Tairov, appearing as a video projection, and bandurist Mr. Kytasty sang "Gazal" written by Khan Ghazi Gerey in the 17th century.
           Soozee Hwang and the Relastics (Susan Hwang on accordion and vocals with vocalists Julie DeLano and Julie LaMendola) performed "Sherlock Holmes" and "Tap On It Light," an homage to physicist Richard Feynman. "Parking" was about the all too familiar woes of looking for a parking space in New York City. Mr. Kytasty joined in, providing the running dialogue in Ukrainian. They ended their set with "This Will Be Our Year," which featured a soulful musical saw solo by Ms. LaMendola.
           Chef Olesia Lew presented "Bringing Food from Shadow to Light," 21st century versions of traditional Ukrainian soul food. Hrechanyky (buckwheat cakes) presented as "meatballs," delicately cooked mushrooms wrapped in tender flaky dough, bite-size pyrohy filled with savory chicken, cups of beets and bean, and chocolate cover mini-tortes were among the many tasty and tempting treats of this culinary crescendo.
           On Sunday, January 19, the festival featured "The Curious Case of the Sidewalk Tree," a shadow puppet show created by Watoku Ueno. The piece featured music by Shu Odamura and shadow images and puppet designs by Mr. Ueno and Motoko Nakamura. With its exploration of environmental and emotional themes, the work proved irresistible to all attendees, whether age 6 or 96.
           A number of artists presented their works. Sofika Zielyk offered "Icon," an ostrich egg pysanka, written in black on white, placed on a ritual cloth (vyshyvka) embroidered in black, the design as delicate as the writing on the egg. Anya Farion showed three of her female torso sculp¬tures, each seemingly alive and vivacious. Photographer Alexander Khantaev showed "Hutsul Koliada," his series of images of the koliada in the Kryvorivnia region of the Carpathian Mountains.
           Other artworks were shown by Pavlo Tychyna, Annette Friedman, Petro Hrycyk, Katya Grokhovsky, Vladyslav Yerko and Roman Hrab. There were also videos by Ms. Babkina and Serhiy Hvozdyk, June Kim Shadow, Mikhail Shraga and Yulia Vita, and Mr. Klyuzko.
           Mr. Klyuzko presented his "Carpathian Photo Patterns." From across the room they resembled patterned kilims; up close they revealed a market scene, a sitting woman, a landscape, or other scenes, each kaleidoscopically manipulated. Utilizing the spaces, he created found art: the massive chandelier lit from one side, its shadow falling within a frame on the wall; the white chairs from the previous night stacked in an interlocking maze.
           Strategically scattered throughout the Ukrainian Institute, these pieces created an imaginary realm in which the festival took place.

Ihor Slabicky, Ukrainian Weekly April 27, 2014

for more see:

Light & Shadow: lists of the different programs all three days
photos of art & performances
| photos from performances Saturday | photos from shadow puppet show "the curious case of the sidewalk tree"


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