Miami Springs got a little taste of Russia on Aug. 9 when a talented group of young people danced into town.
Specifically, it was the Golden Gates dance troupe, an international cultural youth exchange program that tours the United States. The group made a stop Saturday at Poinciana United Methodist Church to delight the audience with their dazzling show.
The performance proved to be a crowd-pleaser, with elaborate costumes blazing, lively music, and beautifully choreographed dancing. The ensemble consisted of 12 teens and young adults from Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and other Eastern European nations.
Emceed by director and founder Vitaliy Bezrodnov, who is also the bayan accordion player, the dancers maintained high gear with soaring leaps, kicks, rhythmic stomps, and squat kicks. The folk dances ranged from Russia to neighboring Georgia, with colorful costume changes for each nation.
In one Georgian dance, seemingly endless and immensely impressive (and probably painful) twirls on one toe characterized the sometimes competitive nature of this tradition. All the dances kept the audience captivated with their energy and spirit.
Bezrodnov was accompanied by the talented Vladimir Pekedov on the balalaika, a triangular stringed instrument, similar to a guitar. The pair kept a lively pace and between dances kept the audience entertained with sing-alongs and humorous routines.
“It was incredible,” said Liz Gueits-Morales. “Their energy was enjoyable. It’s about people.”
Marcos Morales added, “It was a shame that more people weren’t here. It should have been a packed house. After experiencing it and the costumes, the music, it was truly a quality show.”
Part of the mission of Golden Gates is not just to entertain, but also to educate.
Between each performance, Bezrodnov explained the background of each dance and its significance in its country of origin. One, for example, was a dance of young people who are not yet married, for the purpose of finding a partner. Another was a tale of a young man who loved a country girl, then took her away to a foreign land. Many of the songs included audience participation.
“The purpose of folk music is not for people to sit for two hours to listen,” Bezrodnov said. “It is for people to participate, sing along, dance, feel it through your body and soul.” The audience got a chance to participate not just with singing along and clapping, but also on stage with simple percussion instruments, such as tambourines and Russian spoons, provided by the group.
Another mission of Golden Gates is to build bridges between cultures. As the troupe travels through the United States, they hope to spread a little insight of their own culture to the American people. The teens also hope to learn first-hand about American culture.
“When they travel here, they stay in the church and stay with a host family,” said Bezrodnov. “They learn U.S. traditions and, most important, experience freedom of speech, thinking, and doing different things that don’t hurt anybody. If we get to know each other better, we won’t have these situations where we don’t understand each other. We can have a better understanding of each other.”
The Golden Gates program is partially supported by Rotary International. The group does not charge admission for their events, but they do accept donations to help keep the program running.
In addition to the Russian folk dancers, the audience was also treated to music from another part of the world — Chile and Peru. Joining the fun-filled night was Amisadai Andino, a six-member ensemble which performs the indigenous music of the two nations.
Led by Leonardo Guaico, the group plays instruments of the region such as the pan flute, charango, quiena and bombo drum, all crafting beautiful melodies.
“They enjoyed it very much, they were clapping along,” said Elizabeth Guaico, Leonardo’s wife. “They are strange instruments, but people reacted positively.”
According to Pastor Gordon Pike of PUMC, this was the third year they have hosted the Golden Gates group.
“The goal was to have international awareness and youth,” said Pike. “With the hostilities that exist today in the world, this is even more important. God just does amazing work. It’s just amazing in making music. You can carry it in your heart, like love, even when it’s over.”