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DANCE REVIEW

Vohon Dance Energetic but Jumbled

August 12, 1996|VICTORIA LOOSELEAF

Exuberance and energy could be words to describe Vohon Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, a 65-member youth troupe from Edmonton, Canada, that performed Friday night at the Alex Theater in Glendale. Ill-conceived, jumbled and surreal might also apply to some of the evening's odder goings-on.

Under the artistic direction of Ken and Debbie Kachmar, Vohon (Ukrainian for fire), performed a plethora of midair spins, rolls and splits, no-hands flips and the requisite crowd-pleasing squat-kicks. The insistence on a narrative thrust, however, coupled with Ron Cahute's deadly synthesized music, proved fatal to any hoped-for aesthetic.

With the program divided into two acts, Act 1 featured such numbers as "The Spirit of Dance," with dancers miming and warming up at Ken Kachmar's painted barre backdrop. These plies segued into elemental circle dances, where an earthy clunkiness saw the ever-smiling girls weaving in and out of the boys' entwined arms, all the while ringing cow bells.

"The Boot Dance" depicted a young man dreaming of a pair of mystical white boots, only to be pursued by sword-brandishing gypsies swaddled in gaudy satins and their babushka-clad female counterparts, who looked dizzy after bouts of fervent spinning.

The real enigma was Act 2's, "Times of Change," a pre-Christian scenario, replete with lime green nymphs twirling through layers of fog, while a wizened storyteller rambled on about pagan Gods.

No Ukrainian troupe is complete without the traditional Hopak, however, and Vohon's men executed fine acrobatic variations on turns and leaps in a rousing finale that had more false endings than a Beethoven symphony. The small, attentive crowd cheered its approval.

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