An exuberant medley of Belarussia’s vibrant folk dances celebrated the 20 anniversary of the constitution of Russian Federation.

Red – the colour of festivity, of auspicious beginnings and of warmth. It was in the fitness of things that a vista of red should welcome the visitor to the auditorium of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation. Plush red velvet seats, crimson curtains and the striking use of shades of red in the dancers’ costumes all lent a unique warmth to the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

The programme was organised by the Consulate General, the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and the Continental Cultures Achievement Assembly.

Over the centuries, Russia’s rich cultural legacy has found expression in varied art forms. One such is the ‘Raduga’ (Rainbow), the name given to a medley of Belarussian traditional folk dances. Enthralling from start to finish, the items were performed by an ensemble of immensely talented young dancers.

The opening sequence, which had four couples gliding on tiptoe, gently weaving in and out of formations, the women clad in flowing diamante-studded violet and lavender gowns, was an elegant tableau straight out of an illustrated fairytale. The exuberance of youth breezed in, invigorating, in the many folk numbers that followed, the themes transporting you to a bucolic setting complete with charming villages, rustic wooden cottages, flower-speckled meadows, festivities in the village square and sprightly rosy-cheeked lasses wooed by eager swains.

Dancing arm in arm, leaping high and pirouetting, the men twirled their partners around in dizzying circles in displays of tremendous energy. The more athletic numbers featured an all-male line up executing leg splits in mid air and cartwheels in tandem, guaranteeing an adrenaline rush to a captive audience. Their feats were punctuated by gusty whoops that drew corresponding squeals from the women, startling at first, but something you soon came to anticipate.

Extremely agile

In a naval-themed sequence, male dancers in sailors’ costume were grouped around the ship’s cook who held out his ladle and nimbly jumped forward and backward over it. Throwing up a raft of ideas for the fitness enthusiast, a group of robust male dancers used the rope to excellent effect, skipping on alternating feet and with hands crossed, in amazing permutations.

Catchy beats, accompanying the twang of stringed instruments such as the balalaika, and the chords of the bayan ensured a non-stop stream of foot-tapping music.

The youngest member of the troupe, an incredibly supple acrobat, regaled you with her full- throated folk song renditions between sequences.

An appreciation of the Raduga would be incomplete without special mention of the costumes. The soft white lawn shirts with colorful appliqués, worked tunics and baggy silk pants worn by the men and the exquisitely embroidered pinafores, waistcoats and ethereal gowns of the women testified to the art and craft repository of the Russian people.

The performers drew bursts of well-deserved repeated applause from the audience, who also clapped in time to the music during the faster numbers. The instant rapport and pervasive bonhomie were perhaps best reflected in the spontaneous reaction of a child who was seen skipping delightedly in the aisles.

As you walked back along the pathway lit by strings of twinkling fairy lights, you carried home the satisfaction of an evening well spent on discovering some of Russia’s vibrant folk traditions.