The Dance of the Russians

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The Dance of the Russians

No matter what you think about the leadership of Russia, the people of Russia have an enviable artistic legacy. Their glorious architecture, inspiring literature, and heartrending music express the triumphs and challenges of their centuries of existence. Russian dance transcends mortal experience and transports audiences to the heights of beauty and wonder.

If I had to reduce Russian dance to two words, they would be grace and athleticism.

Let’s start by looking at some Russian folk dances.

Here’s an example of grace: Berezka. (This may actually be from the Ukraine; if so, my apologies.)

The dancers glide so smoothly in their long gowns that observers barely see their steps. It’s almost as though they’re dolls on a turntable.

Now, for athleticism: Kalinka.

This vigorous dance features prisyadka, the deep squats followed by a kick that male Russian dancers made famous; also that crab-walking thing (I’m so sorry—I don’t know the name of that step).

Russia produced some of the greatest composers of ballet music: Tschaikovsky, Prokofiev, Glazunov, Stravinsky. It comes as no surprise that Russian choreographers drew upon the wealth of their native culture to create inherently Russian ballet. It also stands to reason that some of the most legendary ballet dancers in history are Russians.

The Dance of the Snowflakes from The Nutcracker:

Dance of the Little Swans from Swan Lake:

The Dying Swan from Swan Lake:

Rudolph Nureyev defected from Soviet Russia in 1961 and partnered with Dame Margot Fonteyn at The Royal Ballet in London. Here is the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet:

Nureyev in Swine Lake:

Long before becoming Carrie’s love interest on Sex and the City, Mikhail Baryshnikov was a Russian dancer who also defected, in 1974, when he was hired by the American Ballet Theater.

Click here to see him dance in a scene from the movie White Nights

Watch him leap. He seems almost to be jumping on a trampoline.

The training of a Russian ballet dancer starts before the age of 10, when students can audition and commit to the ballet academy. They reside onsite while they complete their study, including several hours of dance classes every day. Less than half graduate, due to the high demands of the program.

Few people understand what it takes to actually become a prima ballerina. Here are a couple of videos that give you an idea what young dancers need to practice every day. Note: even though they make it look effortless, in reality, ballerinas suffer severe foot pain for their art.

Click here to see en pointe technique.

I studied ballet in kindergarten, and took another class when I was a young adult. I also have been a member of Phoenix International Folk Dancers for about six years.

Do you dance? Do you like to watch dancers? What are your favorite kinds of dance? Share in the comments below.

2 responses »

  1. Beautiful, beautiful! We had a lovely young mother from Hungary come to our church 12 years ago, brought by her English teacher, and to help her in her language studies she joined our women’s Bible study. She was so afraid but adjusted well because we (I was leading the study at my house) slowed the study down and spoke simply. She got upset over the story of Rachel and Leah, “No one should have 2 wives, etc.” It was an incredible experience to see the Bible through the eyes of one who had never read it and knew nothing about Christianity. Iboya and her husband were both chemical engineers, his speciality was the environment and he came as a consultant for a major corporation in Phx. They had a daughter, Anna, who they put in our school. Iboya grew up on a pig farm, it was heavy, difficult work. We noticed her beautiful legs and were entranced with her story of studying dance from an early age, she was on her way to becoming a star ballerina !!! (Now you know why I’m telling you this) when her father had a disabling accident, ended up in a wheelchair; they could no longer afford her dance lessons and needed help on the farm. She accepted all this as a part of life. When they went home for a visit she bought a Hungarian Bible and devoured it. Pastor Andrew and I lead her to the Lord using her Bible. I also found her the Jesus video in Hungarian. Within a year they moved back to Hungary and for a long time we kept in touch online. You can imagine, it’s one of my cherished memories. I am friends with her English teacher on FB. Thanks for reading this, Betty See you at Linda’s.

    Liked by 1 person

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