PARSIPPANY, N.J. – The Roma Pryma Bohachevsky Ukrainian Dance Academy Workshop (held June 28 through July 10, for campers age 16 and over), and the Ukrainian Dance Camps (first session: July 19-31; and second session: August 1-14, for campers ages 8-16), were held in a safe and fun environment at Soyuzivka Heritage Center in Kerhonkson, N.Y.
Ania Bohachevsky Lonkevych, camp director, and Orlando Pagan, artistic director, spoke with The Ukrainian Weekly about this year’s camps.
Ms. Lonkevych explained that to maintain a safe experience for campers, she implemented COVID-19 testing measures and created a “bubble” of isolation so that after several days of wearing masks and negative tests, the Workshop campers were able to dance unmasked.
Sanitization measures were also instituted and medical-grade air purifiers were placed in common areas. However, Ms. Lonkevych emphasized, there was no vaccine mandate, and even fully vaccinated individuals were subject to the same rules.
“The priority was safety, and it worked,” she said, noting that there were no reports of illness due to COVID-19 during all three camps.
Also new this year was online camper registration and staggered, appointed check-in times to avoid a large gathering of people arriving at camp at the same time. This year included additional work to keep parents informed, through video messages from the camp’s medic, medical protocol advisor, Dr. Larissa Dyrszka.
To maintain isolation, the camps observed “bubble zabavas” or dances that were held just for Workshop and the Dance Camps in the Main House dining hall. Everyone in camp, including staff, were required to stay on Soyuzivka grounds and maintain distancing.
“I thank all of the campers and staff for their understanding,” Ms. Lonkevych said.
Workshop staff included Ms. Lonkevych, Mr. Pagan, dance instructor Stefan Calka (assistant camp director) and instructor Dianna Shmerykowsky. Anna Lawrence provided musical accompaniment.
The Dance Camps also saw changes this year, with no “kazka” or story performance, which was previously a large part of the camp schedule, but it was replaced with a montage of Ukrainian dances, with the performances video-recorded and available for parents to download and for campers to share.
“These are difficult and challenging times, and I understand the tough decision parents make. The feedback from the parents of kids who did attend were generally positive, and the parents were happy the kids could have these experiences,” Ms. Lonkevych said.
The reaction of campers was the same, regardless of age; they wanted the camp experience, and even having their own zabava was its own memorable experience, Ms. Lonkevych said.
“It was great to see them all interact, even without having to enforce the typical phone policy, where instead they were not on their phones, and were taking advantage of the moment,” Ms. Lonkevych said. “As with much of what we’ve seen during these months of isolation, the virtual experience was not the same, and the kids needed a live in-person camp.”
Dance Camp staff included Irene Roth (camp commander), Emelia Liteplo (administrator), Dr. Theresa Kuritza and Chrystia Kozak. Medical staff members were Christine and Stephen Kobylecky, and Marta Kurgan.
“The camps were blessed with amazing, talented and devoted staff. We wouldn’t be able to do this without them,” Ms. Lonkevych said.
Organizers also expressed thanks to the Rev. Dr. Ivan Kaszczak, who celebrated divine liturgies for the camps on Saturday, so that they could maintain the isolation “bubble.” Organizers also noted that Nestor Paslawsky, general manager of Soyuzivka, and all of the Soyuzivka staff were very accommodating and helped to maintain safe camps.
Mr. Pagan said this year, among the various challenges organizers and campers faced, was the issue of dancing while masked.
“We allowed the Workshop campers to get acclimated to dancing with a mask on during the first days of camp,” Mr. Pagan said, adding that it was difficult to remind parents to maintain distance from even their own children to maintain isolation.
“This year had many more challenges, but it was very rewarding to see the kids’ reaction and willingness to adapt during camp,” Mr. Pagan said.
Dance Camp maintained many of its traditions, including Dance Camp Live, Wacky Wednesday and T-shirt Tuesdays that added to “the sense of normalcy and was really enjoyable for the kids,” Mr. Pagan said. “And the things we couldn’t do, they didn’t miss.”
“The counselors did a great job, and it was an opportunity to show them how to extend gentleness to the kids during these difficult times, while preparing the next generation of leaders,” Mr. Pagan said.