In honor of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, we decided to look to Mother Russia for a few dance lessons and a walk through the rich history of Traditional Russian folk dance, its various incarnations and character.
Traditional Russian folk dance is as broad and diverse as the nation itself. While most foreigners identify traditional Russian dance with the stomping and and knee bending characteristic of Eastern Slavic dance styles, many forget about traditions of dance that originated from Turkic, Uralic, Mongolic and Caucasian peoples who are also native to Russia.
Russian Folk Dance can generally be broken up into two main types of dances Khorovod, a circular game type dance where the participants hold hands, sing, and the action generally happens in the middle of circle, and Plyaska, a coed circular dance that increases in diversity and tempo, according to Bob Renfield, considered to be the preeminent scholar on the topic. Other forms of Russian Folk Dance include Pereplyas, an all-male competitive dance, Mass Dance, an unpaired stage dance without restrictions on age or number of participants, Group Dance a type of mass dance employs simple round-dance passages, and improvisation, and types of Quadrille’s, originally a French dance brought to Russia in the 18th century.
Ethnic Russian dances include khorovod, barynya, kamarinskaya, kazachok and chechotka (a tap dance in bast shoes and with a bayan). Troika, a dance with one man and two women, named after the traditional Russian carriage which is led by three horses. Bear Dance or dancing with bears dates back to 907 when Prince Oleg, in celebration of his victory over the Greeks in Kiev, had as entertainment, 16 male dancers dress as bears and four bears dress as dancers . Dances with dancers dressed as bears are a reoccurring theme, as seen a recording of the Omsk Russian Folk Chorus. (via wikipedia)
Known as Tanok (танок) in Ukrainian and Karagod (карагод) in Belarusian, the dance is a traditional Slavic art form that combines both a circle dance and chorus singing.
Barynya, which literally means “landlady”, is a traditional Russian folk dance that combines chastushka (a traditional folk poem that is often in the form of satire) with spirited dancing. The dancing usually has no set choreography and consists mostly of fancy stomping and squatting. The refrain “Barynya, barynya, sudarynya-barynya” (landlady, landlady, madam-landlady), is also typically repeated throughout the course of the dance.
Kamarinskaya is a traditional Russian folk song and dance that was used in Mikhail Glinka’s orchestral work “Kamarinskaya” (1848).
Chechotka is a traditional Russian “tap dance” that is performed in Lapti (bast shoes) and under the self-accompaniment of a Bayan (accordion).