Dancers




W

hen I was a child growing up in Russia, one of the first old folk fairytales I remember being told as a bedtime story is the one of Vasilisa the Beautiful. It tells the story of a young girl who is mistreated by an evil stepmother, runs from home and is tasked with impossible chores by the evil witch Baba Yaga. Her dead mother's spirit in the form of a doll helps her though, and after many trials and tribulations, Vasilisa returns home bringing the light in form of a skull filled with embers.
The evil stepmother is robbed of her power(in some versions she dies), and a grown Vasilisa ends up being noticed by the Tsar; eventually marrying 
him.
As in all fairy tales, they live happily ever after. This tale was collected along with many others by Russian librarian and former disgraced law student Alexander Afanasyev in the early 19th century. There was also a book with images by the great illustrator Ivan Bilbin, a student of Russian painter Ilya Repin, who had also attended art school in Munich, Germany; which was considered one of the foremost at the time.
I loved these illustrations and as a child could lose myself in his fantastic imagery for hours at a time.Vasilisa Illustration by Bilbin

Valisisa leaves the Baba Yaga's house with the glowing skull

The evil Baba Yaga

           


The evil Baba Yaga; Vasilisa's nemesis who she defeats with the help of her mother's spirit

Another icon of my childhood days was Cheburashka, a character from a 1965 children's book by Eduard Uspensky. A small furry animal from an unspecified exotic country, he climbs into a box full of oranges, falls asleep and is shipped to Russia where he wakes up, which sets the stage for further adventures.

          Cheburashka with Orange

In 1969, the major Russian animated film studio Soyuzmultfil created an animated puppet cartoon based on the book which was very popular. Even today, it is a tradition to sing the famous "Birthday Song" from the series when celebrating someone's birthday; the lyrics describe Cheburashka playing accordion in the rain and receiving no less than 500 popsicles as a gift. Other characters in the show include:

\                                   Gena playing AccordionGena smoking Pipe     

A pipesmoking and well read crocodile named Gena who likes to play the accordion

Little Galya and CheburashkaOld Lady Shopoklyak  

A friendly little girl named Galya; and Old Lady Shopoklyak whose sidekick, the rat Lariska, lives in her handbag. Shopoklyak is at first antagonistic but later also becomes Cheburashka's friend. All these characters remain cultural icons to this day!

Folk Dance Couple

Dancing is in our blood! From Ukrainian folk dancing, Russian Ballet (the first Imperial Dance Academy was founded in 1738) to the traditional Barynya, it remains a vibrant and deeply rooted art form. Here are some links to cultural festivals with a variety of music and dance performances


Canadian National Ukrainian Festival


Babas and Borsch

Cheremosh Dance Company and Academy of Dance

Viter Dance Company

Barynya Band and Dancers

Nash Holos Ukrainian Radio

 Check out these amazing examples of Russian Dance Art - folk and classical!












In this online gallery, you can browse classic and modern Russian art, photography and more

Online Russian Art gallery



 
grandfather showing grandson the benefits of the russian revolution,




If you are interested in the history of the Soviet Union at all; this is one of the best web projects I have found. You can browse through the whole stretch of it's existence by year or topic; all accompanied by great examples of art, film, fine arts, documents of social issues and much more. I have spent hours on this site!

Soviet History, Culture and Art

Village Silhouette