After a breakfast of what looked like hot dogs, cold canned peas (why, Russia, why?) and some crepe-like pancakes with chutney, we loaded ourselves onto the bus for some tourist-y fun before our afternoon performance. We drove to the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which is WWII to, you know, the rest of the world. The museum is massive, and very much about the glory and honour and blah blah blah of war. Don’t get me wrong: some incredible heroism took place in the course of the war, but focusing on glorifying death and explosions is simply not my cup of tea, whether justified or not. Regardless, the building is quite impressive, and possessed of a very “Russian” proportion.
We were led through the museum in our bus groups, though all the dancers for the festival visited the museum at the same time. Our tour guide made frequent reference to “the fascist Germans”, meaning the Nazis, however, the judgment rang rather false seeing as how we were in RUSSIA. I felt particularly badly for the German and Austrian dancers: the Germans because it was their nation being judged so poorly, and the Austrians because of the historical animosity between the two nations due, of course, to the actions taken by the Nazi forces in the course of the war.
After a brief tour of the museum – which, we were told, would take 8 hours to tour fully, thank you very much – for a rather ‘spun’ interpretation of the war, we were treated to lunch in the museum’s dining hall. A roasted vegetable salad, which was a welcome change from the starch and protein, followed by *sigh* a large chunk (and I do mean chunk) of pork with rice. There were also small stuffed rolls, filled with shredded cabbage and onions; they were incredibly good!
The stage for the afternoon’s show was set up on the approach – an expansive, stepped, pedestrian boulevard – to the museum. The day had turned out sunny and relatively warm, affording us the opportunity to relax on the steps in the fenced backstage area with our fellow performers. The number of countries involved in Sunday’s performance exceeded that of the day before: dancers from Syria were now included, and a bluegrass band from Utah. We took pictures, socialized with other dancers, and generally enjoyed being performers, learning and teaching steps to each other. It was a very nice afternoon. Our performance went very well, and without incident; while our musicians and the sound tech had had issues the previous day, which had resulted in a few moments of little-to-no sound, Sunday’s show was issue-free.
After our show, we visited some of the folk-art booths nearby, and listened to a band playing traditional Russian music on traditional instruments. People in folk costumes were dancing before the small stage, and one of the young male dancers, who was also involved in the festival with us, approached us, saying “Please, someone must dance with me!” It was sweet, and Angie responded “Sure! I’ll dance with you!” She looked like she had a very good time.
Back to the bus. Here we get a little TMI, but I’m trying to be thorough, and really, this was rather amusing to me. The amenities we “enjoyed” in Moscow were…questionable, at best. Often, things were astonishing, but such is life, and I’m not prude enough to be entirely shocked by the reality that most of the world is not as obsessive compulsive about its toileting facilities as North America. I was feeling a bit “I’d like to pee” but was not entirely looking forward to checking out the port-a-loos in the backstage area. As I approached the line of blue plastic huts with my friend Heather, three of the Italian dancers were doing the same. The three dancers, all male, systematically opened the doors of the loos, looked inside with trepidation, and then exclaimed loudly with expressions of horror and disgust on their faces as they slammed the door. It was really quite funny, but also rather disappointing, as I was fairly certain that I was at least as possessed of prudish sensibilities as the Italian men; so I waited.
After we had climbed onto the bus, our teacher came aboard and said we should come outside for something. As we got off the bus, in a large open space between buses, a group of dancers, primarily Eastern-Russian dancers, were dancing and singing in a circle. They opened the circle to include us and the other countries who approached, and we spent a long time chanting the Russian words and moving in a slow circle, enjoying the community that dancing provides. Later, we were told that the meaning of the lyrics may have been, *ahem* less than entirely PG, but we were delightfully oblivious at the time, and it certainly makes for an amusing story now, that 17 Canadian dancers were dancing in a circle loudly chanting in come-ons in Russian in front of the massive Moscow war museum. As the circle of dancers broke apart to board our respective buses, a woman who was obviously Eastern-Russian approached us and asked if we were from Canada. We said yes, and she asked if we were from Ontario, to which we responded yes, and she enthusiastically, in thickly Russian-accented English, exclaimed, “I live in Toronto!” We were very surprised! The day before, in the heart of the city, we had encountered a Canadian family from Ontario, who had lived in Orleans* a few years ago. Canucks are everywhere!
On the way back to the compound, our dance teacher’s husband, Jim, requested of Yuri, our festival organizer/tour guide/resident socialist, a beer-purchasing stop. We visited a grocery store outside the Moscow city centre, where we found beer, Russian chocolate, cookies, some sort of puffy poppy-seed things, and a not-horrifying WC. It was a good stop.
Sorry for the abortive post. Soooo sleepy. Dinner, dancing, an unfortunate discovery, and a sobering conversation in tomorrow’s post.
*Orleans is a suburb of Ottawa, and the neighbourhood in which the majority of our studio’s dancers live.