“Powerful Through and Through”: The Dance Journey of Yuliya Solyanyk ’23

Yuliya Solyanyk ’23 choreographed two pieces in Dance Open.

Taking center stage among flashing lights and pulsing music, Yuliya Solyanyk ’23 performed a solo to the song “No Mercy” by UNSECRET. Alongside the solo, which was the opening act of last weekend’s Dance Open, she twirled with Iris Guo ’23 and Viktoria Georgieva ’23 in a ballroom piece, participated in the jazz group Blue Strut’s piece, and danced in a routine with the Andover Dance Company (ADC).

For Solyanyk, Dance Open was the first time performing works that she choreographed on her own. Solyanyk reflected on the choreographing process for the ballroom and ADC routines.

“My favorite [dance performance I’ve done] was the recent Dance Open. This was the first time I choreographed a piece on my own and I had the space to put my feelings into the movements, presenting them on stage, [and] teaching other people… I was scared but choreographing helps your personality shine. I was putting together my choreography for the Andover Dance Company with Amithi [Tadigadapa ’23]. It was very interesting to see how differently we see the music,” said Solyanyk.

Solyanyk first started dancing at four years old when her mom introduced her to a Ukrainian dance club. She danced with this club for 12 years, traveling abroad for competitions and forming close bonds with her coach and fellow dancers. She explained how her experiences with the club helped her learn the value of fostering tight-knit communities through dance.

“We built a family in our club. Our coach was like our mom. We traveled abroad to different countries for competitions; Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia… Having this experience of being on the bus, sleeping on the floor of the bus, sharing food, dancing together on stage, trying to win the competition helped me… bond with my friends and the faculty.” She continued, “Dance was the way we connected, so that was when I realized it is important for me. Even now, on campus, I continue building new connections through dance and exploring dance itself,” said Solyanyk.

In addition, Solyanyk talked about how her dance club coach served as a source of inspiration and mentor to Solyanyk throughout her dance career. She recounted experiences with her coach, as well as how she appreciated her mentor’s consistent dedication to dancing.

“[My coach is] almost 40 years old, she has a kid, but she keeps on dancing with us as if she’s a student. She does workouts with us and performs with us. Seeing her grow, even now when she’s teaching us, is something very inspiring for me. I remember when I was ten years old, I was very afraid of her because she was a very intense coach, but now I see how she helped me grow from a kid who goes to dance practice because my mom forced me to, to someone who enjoys dancing, traveling together and being in the dance club family. I admire her so much,” said Solyanyk.

Solyanyk joined Andover’s jazz dance group, Blue Strut, in September of 2021 when she first arrived at Andover as a new Upper. In addition, she started the Andover Dance Company (ADC), a ballet and modern dance club, with Tadigadapa. Tadigadapa highlighted Solyanyk’s confidence and emotional expression when dancing.

“Her dancing style is powerful through and through. There’s something so captivating about watching her dance, it pretty much hits immediately. She is stunning and has killer technique,” wrote Tadigadapa in an email to The Phillipian.

Fellow dancer Myranda Lu ’23 reflected on her favorite dance that Solyanyk performed. Last spring, Solyanyk dedicated a performance to the challenges of the Russian-Ukraine war, which Lu found particularly memorable.

“It’s such a heartfelt and impactful dance [and it] honestly almost made me cry. It was also extremely memorable because while I was watching, I remember how amazed I was [at] Yuliya’s bravery [and the way she] was showing a more vulnerable side of herself, especially about an issue our school barely talked about,” wrote Lu in an email to The Phillipian.

Solyanyk’s favorite dance styles are contemporary and modern. She enjoys the freedom of contemporary, with the dance movements flowing between sharp and slow. It was not until later in her dance career that Solyanyk experimented with other dance styles, such as ballroom dancing, folk dancing, and jazz.

“When I just started dancing, I locked myself up in contemporary and modern dance styles. It took me a while to get out of this comfort zone and try things like hip-hop, jazz dancing… It’s kind of hard when you lock yourself in feelings of contemporary and mock the jazz vibe, or be open-minded about trying hip-hop. It’s a bit different and really hard to catch immediately. But once you try it, you get mesmerized,” said Solyanyk.

In the future, Solyanyk hopes to explore even more styles, such as ballet and tap-dancing. Although she is unsure about pursuing a career in dancing, she is confident that dancing will remain an important part of her life.

“I will definitely keep on [dancing] in college, after college… Now that I came back to dancing after visiting my dance club back home, I am trying to have regular workouts and have time for myself to enjoy the music, awaken my body, follow the flow… It helps me relax my mind from studying all the time. It’s something that distracts me and gives me a creative space for myself,” said Solyanyk.