Despite soggy conditions, including a brief downpour, more than 100 people still showed up for the St. Petersburg, Russia-based youth ensemble, Golden Gates at Poinciana United Methodist Church last Thursday.
By imitating dancers, sampling instruments or copying the rhythmic clapping and foot stomping of Russian dance, the audience got a taste of faraway culture when the youth ensemble performed a 90-minute show providing an entertaining and authentic glimpse into Old Russia.
Their selection centered on masterpieces of Russian songs, rituals, folk stories and dances that have been carefully researched and re-created in performance. Even audience volunteers were given a hand to learn a circle folk dance and guided in trying out hand-held music makers.
The group was founded in 1993 utilizing the talents of students ages 10-18 at the Author’s Aesthetic Music Secondary School in St. Petersburg. The group is visiting the United States for a month-long cultural exchange program that is supported by Rotary International, United Methodist churches nationwide.
“The young adults and teenagers are here to reach the community to represent the tradition, culture and music from three countries — Russia, Kazakhstan and Georgia,” said Vitaliy Bezrodnov, the coordinator and director for the Cultural Youth Exchange Program, whose skills include playing the Russian-style accordion known as the bayan.
“To see another country is very interesting for me because of the culture and, of course, we’re bringing a piece of our culture for you,” he said. “I’m really happy to be here and dance for you. I also want to thank the audience because it was very great for you to perform.”
The children chosen for the Russian group prepare their program for a year, and must demonstrate the maturity to handle such a trip. As for 19-year-old Alina Furtatova, the trip is a chance to dance in the United States in beautiful customs with colorful dance shoes. Furtatova has danced since she was 6 and loves it.
In lieu of an admission, a free will donation was accepted for the Music in Mission and Rotary International Children’s Fund for Russian orphanages and to help cover tour expenses.
These international travelers got real Miami Springs hospitality as they were hosted by local families, one being the home of Lee and Elizabeth Fisher.
Said Elizabeth Kourtesis: “Our family is delighted to host two of the musicians of the Russian dance troupe at our home. One is from Russia and one is from Kazakhstan. It’s been great to show them some American traditions. We’re having a birthday party for one of the members and we’re celebrating with our families’ favorite ice cream birthday cake and local chicken wings from Woody’s. It’s such a delight to have them.”
Arthur Bajanov, an independent filmmaker, is on tour with the Golden Gates in a documentary about their cultural exchange in America.
“I thought it would be a good thing to document because it brings cultures together and offers an opportunity to see how other cultures came about,” said Bajanov. “For me personally, I see how open-minded American people are and I think that Russians have learned a lot about American culture. There are over 200 nationalities living in this culture, so there is no one America. It’s like a rainbow of everything.”