World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Mountian International Dance Company

Dance Origin: Russia
Folk Dance
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Vassilii Mountian
Executive Director:
Julia Zachariah 
First Appearance in SF EDF: 2009

The Soviet state established the first official troupe of Russian folk dancers in 1937 under the guidance of Igor Moiseyev. Moiseyev outlined traditional steps and forms of Russian folkloric dance, celebrating its creativeness and joy in professional performance. The company and the form became famous worldwide, and the company’s performances, tricks, and concepts were integrated into Russian companies and repetoire. Russian folk dance has a theatrical aspect, heavy emotionality, exhilaration, and employs strong elements of exhibition, athleticism, and pride.

Choreographer Vassilii Mountian is the Founder and Artistic Director of Mountian International Dance Company and the choreographer of this Russian Sailor's Dance, which is being performed by his students. Mountian was one of the lead male soloists of the Moiseyev Dance Company in Moscow and is one of Russia's leading authorities in the fields of folk and character dance. He choreographed and produced major state festivals and shows for the Russian government: for the 75th Anniversary of the October Revolution; for the opening and closing ceremonies for 1986 Moscow Goodwill Games and Kolominskaya Festival; and for Russia's leading Olympic athletes. In the United States he has worked with numerous dance companies. This is Mountian International Dance Company’s first appearance at the Festival. 


Title: Russian Sailor Dance
Tristan Brosnan, Zachary Bukarev, Eric Debono, Ian Debono, LeVander Moore 

The Imperial Russian Navy was created by decree of Czar Peter the Great in 1696. Over the next 150 years, Russian sailors won numerous military campaigns, undertook over forty circumnavigations and distant voyages, explored the "Far East," and also contributed to the discovery of Antarctica. Why were the mariners so able, fit, and cooperative? Because the military held dance competitions as a way to recruit soldiers and sailors—a man was recruited if he could dance. During the long months at sea, sailors relieved the tedium by inventing competitive and athletic dance steps: Mountian's skilled young dancers show off some of these moves, dancing to the tune of Yablochka, a Russian maritime anthem. The youngest dancers wear replicas of Russian "parade dress" uniform, and the outfit worn by the older dancer is official Russian naval issue.

Vassilii Mountian's young dancers execute the presyatka heel dance, barrel turns, mid-air splits, and floor-level kicks. They traverse the stage on their shins, launch themselves horizontally into space, and perform the familiar and always impressive "coffee grinder," with one leg passing through the other leg and the center of balance on the toes. As one British dance writer said, these dance moves "might have spared a thought for the Cossacks' foes over the centuries. Had I been an invader and caught a whiff of this, I'd have changed my mind pretty quick." 

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