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Russian traditional dance and music in Cleveland, Ohio

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Russian dance and music ensemble Barynya performance at The Beck Center for the Arts. Barynya members: dancer Valentina Kvasova, dancer Andrij Cybyk, Leonid Bruk (balalaika-contrabass), Mikhail Smirnov (garmoshka), Alex Siniavski (balalaika).

Russian folk dance and music in Cleveland, Ohio April 2007 Ensemble Barynya


Russian folk troupe to kick up its heels
BY: ARLENE FINE, Senior Staff Reporter
Barynya entertainers perform authentic Russian music and dance.

If you come hear Barynya perform, you will save yourself the plane fare to Russia, laughs Mikhail Smirnov, the leader of a five-person Russian song-and-dance troupe.

While making a beet-and-cabbage borscht in his New York apartment, Smirnov spoke about Barynya, which will perform at The Beck Center for the Arts on April 14 and 15.

We perform authentic Russian, Gypsy, Cossack, Ukrainian and traditional klezmer music and dances, says the entertainer. And we use only authentic Eastern European musical instruments including the garmoshka.

A garmoshka is a small button accordion used for at least 200 years in Russian folk music, explains Smirnov. It is easy to play and has a bright, lively sound.

Many of the songs in Barynyas repertoire are tunes that Smirnov gathered and recorded while traveling from village to village in his native Russia. Most of these melodies are at least 250 years old. Many Russians in our audience know them and often sing along with us n whether we ask them to or not, jokes the entertainer.

Along with theatrical engagements, Barynya performs at schools and colleges. Educators want students to feel the flavor of the Russian culture, says Smirnov. We dress up in full costume. The kids really enjoy when we come out as Cossacks and sing, dance and go a little bit crazy.

Barynya's contrabass balalaika player, Leonid Bruk, is the finest contrabass balalaika player in the world, boasts Smirnov.

Bruk had been a bass guitar player in Russia, but his wife convinced him to learn the contrabass balalaika after they immigrated to New York from St. Petersburg in 1989.

When I first began playing the contrabass balalaika, I hated it, admits Bruk. Its twice the size of a normal contrabass and twice as heavy. It requires much strength to carry and play the instrument; even my fingers were tired when I first began to play it.

Eventually Bruk got used to the contrabass, and now he loves it. The instrument has a haunting, low bass sound and is so powerful, I dont need a microphone.

Bruk, who sells used cars as his day job, looks forward to coming to Cleveland with the troupe. I dont look at my work with Barynya as a second job, he says. I consider it one of lifes pleasures.

Music teacher and Barynyas balalaika player Alex Siniavski, says music is his life. Like other Russian musicians and native Russians, I cant live without this music, he says. Because our repertoire melds Russian and Jewish music, whenever we perform at Jewish centers or Jewish weddings, the grandmothers and grandfathers, even those born in America, begin to sing along with us. They remember melodies, especially those from Odessa, that were sung to them by their mamas when they were little children.

Siniavski began playing the balalaika 20 years ago. It was love at first sight, says the musician. I always say, I didnt pick the balalaika n it picked me.

Copyright 2006
Cleveland Jewish News


Dance and music ensemble "Barynya" performance on Sunday, April 15, 2007 at the Beck Center for the Arts (17801 Detroit Avenue. Lakewood, Ohio). Performers: dancer Valentina Kvasova, dancer Andrij Cybyk, Mikhail Smirnov (garmoshka,vocal), Alex Siniavski (balalaika), Leonid Bruk (balalaika contrabass).





For booking information contact Mikhail Smirnov