Written by Ariel Pan
Bright colors dance across the stage as junior Masha Kruglikov and the rest of the Firebird Dance Ensemble perform on the last day of the Russian Center of San Francisco’s annual Russian Festival. An appreciative audience claps and whistles as the dancers jump, kneeling and straightening; smiles are everywhere.
“Performing Russian traditional dance on stage brings me joy because when the audience sees us, they see something different than other dance forms like contemporary or ballet,” Kruglikov said. “It’s not something you see that often.”
Kruglikov has danced at the Firebird Dance Studio in Mountain View for almost eleven years, learning a variety of dance forms from Russian traditional dance to ballroom and contemporary, to traditional dances from other countries such as Ireland and Moldova. However, Russian folk dance is closest to home for Kruglikov. “It shows me how Russian people danced and it brings me closer to my culture,” she said.
For Kruglikov, a major difference between Russian traditional dance and contemporary dance is the costumes. Russian costumes use brighter colors and often have vibrant designs, such as flowers, on their shirts and skirts. The costumes sometimes include hats; the studio provides and creates the costumes. The dances and vivid costumes combined create an energetic atmosphere. “There’s just a lot more movement and smiles [in Russian dance],” Kruglikov said.
Another difference she finds is the music. “Orchestra music can be quiet and loud and it has all these different fortes and pianos, but [Russian] dancing music tends to be on the same [dynamic] level,” Kruglikov said. “Even though it has different beats and sounds, it isn’t as dramatic.” Music also affects the routine’s difficulty. “Sometimes there is really fast-paced music so you have to learn lots of small movements and do them quickly,” Kruglikov said.
Kruglikov originally had three lessons per week, but plans to change to only two lessons per week, due to a busier schedule. However, Kruglikov has many reasons to keep dancing. “I enjoy dancing because it’s a way for me to communicate with others without using words, just using gestures,” she said. “Another reason I enjoy going to the dance studio is because my best friends dance there as well, so it’s also a time to socialize
with them since I don’t see them as often.”