Russian ensemble brings folk traditions to life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 February, 2007, 12:00am

To most of us, Russia is a cold, grey, mysterious place. Yet within this vast territory, to the northeast of Moscow, there is a region with a cultural coherence created by those who lived there in the middle ages.

It contains rich ethnic and cultural values derived from a complex interaction of history and geography. The cultural and administrative capital of this region - Vologda Oblast - is Vologda.

Vologda means 'the pure one' in the language of the indigenous Finno-Ugric population.

The Russian North State Folk Music, Song and Dance Ensemble is the first professional folk art troupe in the Vologda region which performs the 'pure' folk culture of northwest Russia. Its mission is to reinterpret the rituals and traditions of these people. The troupe will perform in April as part of the Cultural Presentations highlights from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

The show - called Cathedral Hill - is a mixture of Russian folk dance and music, with a cast of 30 dancers, singers and musicians, unique scenery, colourful costumes and diverse theatrical props.

Created under the guidance of art director Louri Tsepelev (considered an honoured and respected figure by folklore experts), the show is a reflection of the life and customs of the Finno-Ugric people, with songs, dance, lace-making and winter games all featured in the production.

The Russian North State Folk Music, Song and Dance Ensemble has performed at the opening ceremonies of festivals in Russia, and taken part in international festivals in France, Belgium, Austria, Slovakia, Morocco and Argentina. Its performance in April will mark its debut in Hong Kong.

The roots of Russian folk culture date as far back as the first millennium, when Slavic tribes settled in the European part of the present territory of Russia.

Those tribes were famous for their love and mastery of music, singing and dancing, according to Byzantium and German manuscripts.

Russian folk art and culture faced a crisis during Soviet times. In the 1930s, it was seen as a hindrance to the future of communism. There were attempts to 'update' folk art and make it serve the state cultural policy, but despite this, traditional folk culture was kept alive.

The Cathedral Hill will be performed on April 13 at Sha Tin Town Hall; April 14 at Tsuen Wan Town Hall; and April 15 at Yuen Long Theatre