The cold winds of Siberia are blowing in a night of history, culture and dance like no other at Bob Jones University with the performance of the Krasnoyarsk National Dance Company of Siberia on Nov. 12 for a one-night Concert, Opera and Drama Series program.
Dr. Darren Lawson, dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication, said he discovered the company at the Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference in New York. Lawson said BJU had a similar group perform in 1999. “It was so successful [in 1999]; the audience just loved it,” Lawson said. “Every year I would check and see if they were coming.”
While the group which performed in 1999 has not returned to the U.S. since, Lawson is excited to have the National Dance Company of Siberia here to present a similar style of program.
“It’s a hodgepodge program of just different folk dances,” Lawson said. “It’s exposing us to the Russian culture, which I think is so fascinating. Anytime you can travel or experience another culture, you become better yourself.”
Lawson’s desire is that the program will bring a new understanding of Russian culture to BJU. “We can’t go to Russia as a student body, but we can bring Russia to us,” Lawson said. “Sometimes we think of all the controversy with Russia now, . . . and we forget that there are indigenous people there with families and culture.”
The cultural exchange will be mutual, however. “I want to show them the love of Christ while they’re here, so that their experience at a Christian university in the United States is a reflection of our God,” Lawson said. “I want them to experience professionalism, kindness, everything that would reflect positively on our Savior.”
The company consists of 55 dancers performing in the original style of Siberian folk dances. They are accompanied by an orchestra of folk instruments. The company will perform for the first time at BJU in Founder’s Memorial Amphitorium. But such a large dancing troupe will require staging in FMA unlike what students or faculty may have seen before.
The dances include many acrobatic aspects that requires special accommodations. “We will clear the stage completely, and then we will put down a special floor all across the FMA stage,” Lawson said. Lawson said his favorite performance is a dance involving weaponry, specifically swords. “The sheer athleticism with the acrobatics that come with that is amazing,” Lawson said.
Beyond the dancers’ skill, their performance comes alive with the colorful cultural costumes, designed by Merited Workers in Art Yelizaveta Akselrod, Boris Knoblok, Vladimir Mamontov and Paulina Korotkova. Inspired by the Siberian peoples, Mikhail Godenko founded the National Dance Company of Siberia in 1960. He directed the company until 1991 as well as choreographed many of the dances.
Godenko worked with the company’s musical director, composer Vladimir Kornev, Merited Artist of Russia. Kornev’s knowledge of folk dances and Siberian folklore helped him create stunning music to highlight Godenko’s choreographed dances and feature the Siberian folk instruments.
Songs featured in some dances include “My Siberia,” “Krasnoyarsk Merry Tunes,” “Cossack’s Dance,” “Down the Street,” “Men’s Dance” and “Siberian Fun.”