“Sport is a set of a social practices and relations that is structured by the culture in which they exist, and any adequate account of sport must be routed in an understanding of its location within society” (Sage, 1998, p. 397). I was involved in dancing since my childhood. My parents introduced me to this discipline when I was only 6 years old and since then I never stopped dancing. At the time I was living in Ukraine. In my country, to be a part of a ballroom dancing was a privilege and still is but it’s not as popular as it used to be.
New traditions, politics, and society are changing the culture. The new generation of kids is not as interested in sports and different kinds of activities as my generation. Some parents do not have money to let their children to be involved in sports, and some simply do not want them to participate in it, because there is no real monetary future in this career path for them afterwards. As for me, my parents were able to pay for private dance classes so I could follow my dream of becoming a professional ballroom dancer. This dream was a reality until we came to United States of America.
When I came to the USA, at first it was a total culture shock. Everything that I knew in life was totally changed; the mentality, the environment, the people, even a way of communicating. After a month of adjusting in a new country, I realized that I missed dancing a lot. At that point I decided to search around for a good ballroom dance school so I could join and continue realizing my dream. After researching and finding out the cost for private dancing and even group dancing classes, I got very disappointed. It was clear to me that I won’t be able to follow my passion for dancing, at least not on a professional level.
It was very expensive for a new immigrant, “right off the boat” as they say, in a new country with little money. No amount of passion could provide me with the opportunity that I lost coming here. All through my struggles and difficulties I decided to stay positive and not to give up. Some time passed and luckily I found a folk dance group in Baltimore called “Lyman” that I joined. The group was not very big or professional for that matter, but it was enough for me, plus it was free to join, practice, learn and dance! At that stage of my life, dancing became my hobby; it was something that was making me happy. All this changed when I met a professional folk dancer that inspired me once again, Lev Ivashko.
When our friendship grew stronger and trustworthy, he proposed that I dance with him at a gig. This idea interested me very much, since I was a poor student at the time and he was going to pay me for the performance. Of course, I accepted! Since then my view of dancing changed and it transformed from a hobby to money making business. From then on, things started to roll in. I joined yet another dance group called “Kalinka,” a Russian folk dance ensemble. We started to perform not just in Maryland, but in 5 other states. We scored gigs at important and paid events only. It did not matter how the economy was performing, there were always people who were able to pay for our performances.
One of our most important clients was the Russian Embassy, where we danced seven to ten shows a year. Everything seemed perfect until the economy got even worse. Price for gas went up, international travel hurled and it was less and less profitable for us to drive long distances to perform. We demanded more money for the shows, but clients simply could not pay us more. Me and my friend Lev quit the dance group and decided to create our own group called “Fantazia,” meaning people’s fantasy.
The group was created in 2007, at a time of economic turmoil. We did not have any costumes, no dancers, and next to zero funds for supporting the dance group. My friend and I were still in school earning our degrees, but on the way to graduate, so we had limited time to concentrate on the group. We held our practices on Sundays in Washington DC and week by week we were gaining one to two new dancers. In few months’ time we gathered a group of twenty people. Some were professional dancers, some were amateurs who simply loved to dance. With no money or costumes we decided to throw a fund raiser in a Ukrainian church, where people could donate money and would support a newly formed Ukrainian group. Every dancer came up with idea for costumes and we made it happen with an outrages success.
Our group started to stand up on its own two feet, full of energy and motivation. We collected all the money from our performances and fundraisers and we purchased new costumes for men and women. After getting everything in sync we were ready for a big takeoff. Unfortunately it didn’t work out as we planned. With the economic situation in the country, people were not able to pay enough money for a performance and we as leaders of the group could not satisfy every dancer. In order to get a nice show we needed to network a lot and know people who can really make it happen and who will put in a good word for us. As we moved on with our lives, real jobs and families there was little time left to devote to leading a dance group.
This situation showed me once more that a financial situation of the country and different classes of society are playing a very important role in any kind of sport. The thing that I am most proud of is that I never gave up and kept fighting for what I wanted to do. Our dance group “Fantazia” still exists and is very successful in Washington, DC area.