Encyclopedia of dance: Hopak


Hopak contains the whole Ukrainian soul. This dance is the hallmark of Ukrainian folk art. He was repeatedly applauded by the audience in many countries of the world.

History of occurrence

The history of the emergence of hopak is associated with the combat training of the Cossacks of the Zaporizhzhya Sich in the 16-18 centuries. Therefore, initially it was exclusively a male dance. The hetmans, taking a mace, began to dance in the center of the circle, and the Cossacks who entered the circle confirmed their supremacy. The name hopak comes from the word «gopat» — to jump, and from a similar exclamation «hop».

Men’s suits, which are still used for hopak (red harem pants, a colored belt, an embroidered shirt, pointed boots), are essentially the uniform of the regular military of that time. Women appeared in the hopak only in its stage version, but also dressed in historical costumes of the central part of Ukraine (an embroidered shirt, a reserve or plakhta, a kirsetka, pointed red boots, a wreath with ribbons).

The new history of hopak began with the creation in 1940 of the song and dance ensemble of Ukraine, which was headed from 1955 to 1975 by Pavel Pavlovich Virsky. It was this choreographer who created the academic folk dance on the basis of classics and traditional folklore, and staged the famous hopak, with which the academic dance ensemble of Ukraine named after him still completes concerts.

Modern hopak is performed in a number of ballets (Taras Bulba, Gayane, The Little Humpbacked Horse, Marusya Boguslavka) and operas (Zaporozhets beyond the Danube, May Night, Aeneid, Mazepa, Sorochinskaya Fair») and is included in the program of ensembles and soloists.

What is a hopak?

Hopak refers to domestic Ukrainian dances. The characteristic features of the hopak are strength and dexterity, heroism and nobility. This is an improvisational dance: moving in pairs in a circle, the guys compete in dexterity and perseverance. The girls cheerfully encourage them to new tricks, and, separating themselves, dance the lyrical part modestly and with dignity. Then the guys come in again — this is a flurry of virtuoso squats, jumps, spins, etc. The final of the hopak is stormy, cheerful, sparkling and temperamental.

The main movements of the hopak (dance by everyone):

  • fugitive;
  • stray step;
  • rope;
  • picker;
  • pas de basque (legs are straight);
  • cabbage rolls are low;
  • track;

Men’s movements:

  • stuffed cabbage high (cabriole);
  • jumps (running, ring, hawk, toad, etc.);
  • squats (simple, lateral, with a hand strike on the floor (on the bootleg, on the sole), stretching down and to the side, slider, panicle, undercut, bookmark);
  • picker in a deep squat;
  • move in a deep squat;
  • rotations (windmill, barrel, watermelon, tours in the air in VI position, etc.)


Women’s movements:

  • picker with variations;
  • rotation;
  • pancakes;
  • step-turn;
  • pas de basque in turn.


In addition to the academic stage version of the hopak, there is a combat hopak. The tricks performed in hopak are superior in technique to many martial arts. The author of this style is Vladimir Pilat, who has been developing it since 1985 and has published two books. Historians believe that every movement of the hopak carries coded information. This style is aimed at reviving a harmonious warrior and is still considered exotic. And the combat hopak system has 7 levels of skill:

  • The first three student (Zheltyak, Falcon, Hawk)
  • Intermediate (Jura)
  • Three workshops (Cossack, Kharakternik, Magus)

In Ukraine, 4 schools of national martial arts are developing, differing in the speed of movements and the purpose of the style: “cross”, “savior”, “cathedral”, “hopak”.

Hopak Features

Gopak is performed in the musical time 2/4. A good performance of hopak requires sufficient physical preparation and professionalism. Children start learning Ukrainian folk dance from the age of five.

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