The Zorya Ukrainian Dance Ensemble was formed in 1997 with the purpose of promoting Ukrainian culture through our love of Ukrainian dance. The founding members endeavoured to do this in a way that remained true to the traditions of Ukraine while breathing renewed spirit and life into dance in Thunder Bay.

The original Ensemble was comprised of 14 dedicated individuals from the Thunder Bay area. They chose the name "Zorya" because, when translated it means "stars" and the fledgling Ensemble burned with the desire to raise their dance skills to new heights.

From these inceptive members (Andrea Bodnar, Tanya Bodnar, Alana Cernjul, Alison Chony, Dawn Chony, Kevin Chony, Mary Fiorenza, Michelle Halabecki, Jodi Murphy, Dean Oikonen, John Stadnyk, Ryan Stadnyk, Marnie Wolowich, and Lisa Zeleny), Zorya has rapidly expanded to include sixty dancers in just four years with the birth of the Zorya Ukrainian Dance Association in 1998.

Since these beginnings, we have had the opportunity to perform at various events within Thunder Bay as well as throughout Northwestern Ontario and Northern Minnesota including: Multicultural Days in Silver Bay, Minnesota; the Dryden Ukrainian Festival in Dryden, Ontario; Multicultural Festival in Fort Frances, Ontario and Slovak Days at Ironworld in Hibbing Minnesota. Zorya also performs at many local venues including: the Mother's Day Cystic Fibrosis Telethon, Old Fort William, the Cossack Days Festival, the Thunder Bay Multicultural Association's Folklore Festival, the Lakehead Music Festival, Showcase 2000, Children's Festival and Westmount-Hogarth Hospital to name just a few.

Zorya has been very fortunate to enjoy wonderful support from many local businesses and the Ukrainian community. Some of our most generous supporters are the Port Arthur Prosvita Cultural Centre, the Westfort Prosvita, The Northwestern Ontario Wushu Academy and the City of Thunder Bay. Without this support, we would not have been able to grow so quickly. This gracious support helps to fund instruction, rehearsal space, costumes, performance venues, trips and so much more.

Of course, another pillar for our success is the generous spirit of our membership. Zorya strives to enhance the cultural and technical aspects of our Association with a warm, family-like atmosphere. Through the interest and involvement of our dancers, parents, instructors, Board of Directors and Ukrainian community members, we sincerely hope to keep the gracious spirit of the Ukrainian people alive in our Association.

As we look upon our past success and look forward to even more, the Zorya Ukrainian Dance Association is proud to contribute to Ukrainian culture in Thunder Bay, as well as the rest of the world.

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