In the olden days, in Russia, spoons and dishes used by the peasants were wooden. They were not only for food but also percussion instruments. At Delhi’s Russian Centre For Science And Culture, a slice of life from Russia’s villages comes alive. A group of girls, in bright colourful costumes, perform the perky folk dance of their country, Lozhkari, to the rhythm of spoons. They are followed by a group of boys who present Yablochko, the dance of Russian sailors.
A group of 11 children, part of the Moscow-based folk dance group Kalinka, performed at the show this week, as part of the third edition of Rosatom Festival of Science and Culture. The festival is organised by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation in Mumbai and Delhi.
In the 13 acts that they presented, the audience got a glimpse of a variety of Russian folk dances including the military-style Kozachok; timbrels belonging to the Kuban Cossacks in the south of Russia; Nanai from the northern region; and Kosarejka from the Karelia region. They ended the evening dancing to the popular Russian folk song Kalinka-Malinka.
To the Indian audience, the music is familiar. Filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj drew inspiration from the tunes for the song Darling, sung by Usha Uthup in the movie 7 Khoon Maaf. Russian dances are known for their squat work, stomping and knee-bending techniques.
The dance ensemble, Kalinka, which was founded in 1968 by one of the country’s most famous choreographers, Alexander Filippova, is celebrating its golden jubilee this year. It has trained over 20,000 children over the years. Children join at the age of three and stay till they are 18, says Natalya Levitskaya-Filippova, the artistic director of Kalinka. She runs the school with her mother Irina Filippova. She too started dancing on the floors of the school, as a child. Talking about her father Alexander, she says, “He was a ballet dancer and always young at heart. He had a fire inside him which kept burning when children were around him.” There are over 150 varieties of Russian folk, military and sport variety dances in their repertoire. Prized possessions of the group are the 3,000 hand-sewn costumes, from different regions and ethnic groups.
The group has recently found fame in the country and abroad as they have toured over 45 countries and performed at events including the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, Paralympic Games in Sochi, and EXPO 2015 in Milan.
“It was very unfortunate that in the 1990s and 2000s, people lost interest in Russian culture, the foreigners were much more interested in it than Russians. We are now seeing a resurrection of Russian culture after our performance at the Olympic Games. It’s gaining ground and becoming part of festivals again,” says Natalya.