Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
The New Archangel Dancers are a group of women who live, work and raise their families in Sitka. Troupe members represent a variety of professions including artists, biologists, business managers, domestic engineers, pharmacists, physical therapist, social worker and teachers. They perform with sincerity and enthusiasm rarely seen in a volunteer group. Training and practice is an integral part of the group and these dedicated performers practice throughout the year, often attending dance workshops over the winter. New members are accepted into the group at annual auditions and experienced dancers are responsible, along with the dance director, to prepare and train new members. Most troupe members are employed and have families, so are juggling work, family and other forms of recreation to practice and perform.
The fee for performances provides the group a practice facility, sound systems, music, dance instructors, costumes and advertising. Fees allow dance program needs to be met and provides support to local performing arts programs through in-kind donations, financial contributions and scholarships for high school students.
Over 130 years ago Sitka was owned by Russia and was known as New Archangel, Capital of Russian America. Taking their name from history, the New Archangel Dancers organized in 1969 to preserve a part of Sitka's Russian History through the art of dance. The original troupe formed with eight dancers and put on four performances their first season for visitors to Sitka. The initial four dances performed by the group came from a variety of sources including a children's book of Russian songs and dances and Bishop Theodosius, who was stationed at the Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka at that time.
The New Archangel Dancers continually promote Alaska as a visitor destination by sharing their knowledge of Sitka's Russian History and their pride in Alaska. None of the New Archangel Dancers are professional dancers nor do they have Russian lineage.
The Dancers' success and notoriety have been enhanced by regular guest performances at the opening of new Alaska Airlines terminals, at Alaska Governors' inaugural celebrations, and at various dance festivals, tourism trade shows, conferences and public events. In addition to performing throughout the "lower 48" the dancers have performed to enthusiastic audiences in Hawaii, Japan, Russia, Mexico and the Caribbean.
The New Archangel Dancers summer performances are a half-hour long and include a variety of lively and authentic folk dances from Russia and the surrounding regions.
The New Archangel Dancers repertoire includes over 35 dances from Russia, Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. Shows include lively dances such as Troika Polka, Ural Mountain, Korobieniki, Hutzulka, Chumak or Hopak. Flirtatious or fun loving character dances such as By the River, Kadril, Kerchief, Tsiganskii Tanyetz (Gypsy Dance), The Sailor Tap and Mirage tell a story or depict a traditional way of life. Stately and serene dances such as The Beryozka Gliding Dance, Pryalitza or Uzory lend an elegant flavor to performances, while children's favorites such as the Ribbon and Cossack Horsemen dances add another dimension. Shows are concluded with a spirited and energetic rendition of a traditional Russian finale. Different dances are introduced weekly so visitors and locals may enjoy a greater portion of the repertoire.
New dances and costumes are often added to the repertoire. Professional folk dance instructors teach the group new dances and provide details about appropriate costuming and music. The dancers also perform at conventions, banquets, fundraisers, celebrations or special events in Sitka, in other Alaskan communities and in the "Lower 48."
From the vibrant floral prints and elegant gowns of Russia, to the bright plaids and braids of the Ukraine and the distinctive stripes and dark colors of the Moldavian outfits, the New Archangel Dancers' costumes add authenticity to the program. Costumes are hand made using information provided by professional dance instructors. Colorful, multi-textured materials, scarves, crowns, hats and accessories are used to create the costumes worn by this dance troupe. These costumes are designed to ensure authenticity and to showcase the distinctive character of the folk dances performed.