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Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia shakes at Staller

(KENNETH HO / STALLER CENTER)
The Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia performed at Staller after performing in more than 60 countries around the world. (KENNETH HO / STALLER CENTER)

Russia has been soaking up much of the world’s spotlight in recent weeks with its hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, this attention also comes with a hefty amount of criticism.

Reports criticizing Russia’s $51 billion expenditure as well as citizens’ loss of homes to make way for Sochi-related services without compensation have both been consistently published in an attempt to raise public awareness. Unfortunately, in trying to report the truth behind the Sochi Olympics, many reports fail to emphasize the finer qualities of Russia and its rich culture.

Like any land, Russia’s people have a diverse set of talents and traits that make them unique when compared to other groups around the world. Stony Brook’s campus had the pleasure of experiencing this culture first hand.

The Staller Center for the Arts hosted an event on Saturday which featured the Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia. After performing in more than 60 countries around the world, the group of professional dancers had its first performance on the Stony Brook University campus, which appeared to be a highly anticipated one as crowds of enthusiasts began filling up the main stage audience seating long before the actual performance began.

One would not have wanted to miss the visual experience put on by the performers from the very first dance piece.

The show started off abruptly, lacking any formal introduction, but it did not take long for the visuals, music and dancing to captivate the audience’s attention. Low murmurs of side chatter quickly faded in recognition of the dancers, their brightly colored costumes and the soothing dance routine they performed without missing a beat.

The first routine, with its white and blue themed costumes, set the tone for the rest of the night as one that would be peaceful yet entertaining. The following set, however, included a more upbeat rhythm that was rightfully accompanied by sun-colored dresses that floated as their wearers seemingly glided across the stage with their partners. This change in tempo became routine throughout most of the show, but it did not ruin the performance by allowing the audience to guess what to expect next. Each routine had its own flavor, whether it was the rhythm, the costume, or the story.

Costumes ranged from simplistic colors that flowed gracefully with the dancers’ help to unique chicken-like costumes that added personality on top of an already visually satisfying performance.

Similarly, the routines added personality to the folk dancing with the stories they told. The use of dance to lay out 10 minute stories to the crowd was one of the strongest factors contributing to the audience’s consistent clapping and clamors of praise.

This is not to discredit the dancing itself, which is something that could have been enjoyed by any fans of dance, even those unfamiliar with Russian folk dance. The dancer’s performance depended on the routine, and so some of the show consisted of solo dancing where each dancer formed a single moving body that swept the stage like a wave that never crashed on the shore. The wave instead disappeared into a side curtain where a new set of dancers would come out in different costumes to keep the visual delight refreshed.

The transitions made the National Dance Company of Siberia’s dancers seem infinite in number as most of the transitions occurred in a tight time slot where off stage dancers had to seemingly get dressed in an instant before coming out to complete the routine. When the new dancers did take the stage they danced on virtually every inch of stage available to them. Whether they were dancing with a partner or at front stage spinning on their upper bodies, each dancer added a unique sense of style to the performance while not deviating enough to make it seem incoherent.

Although the dancing was labeled as folk art dancing, it was hard to tell at times how it varied from modern day dancing we see in pop culture. Some routines involved graceful dancers that looked like they were moving on an invisible conveyor belt, but others included energetic dancing where the dancers showed off moves that tested their acrobatic ability. It was the latter that proved to be similar to modern day dance philosophy, but distinct enough to not take away from its cultural roots.

Most routines included a prop that was put to use by the dancers. These props, including swords and accordions, added to the visual aspect of the dance show while also displaying an impressive skill by the dancers to use materials other than their bodies to emphasize the art of dance. The use of these props to further add to the overlay of sound in the performance made their presence just as strong and important as any of the factors that made the two-hour show a success. It was a combination of these factors that left the audience in a roar of applause as the curtains closed, an applause well deserved.

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