Russian Traditional Dances

Traditional Russian folk dance is as diverse as the nation itself. While most foreigners identify traditional Russian dance with knee bending (присядка), there is so much more to it! In fact, there isn’t just one dance, but numerous dances that originated from Slavs, Tatars, Mongols, Caucasian peoples amongst others who are all native to Russia. Let’s have a look at a few most popular ones!

Khorovod (Хоровод)

Khorovod is a traditional Slavic dance that combines dancing in a circle and chorus singing. It is a lot of fun, so give it a try (wedding maybe?)!

Chechotka (Чечетка)

Сhechotka  is a traditional Russian tap dance that is performed in “lapti” (bast shoes/лапти) and under the accompaniment of a “bayan” (accordion/баян).

Kalinka (Калинка)

Kalinka is often considered to be an icon of Russian folk dancing. The name of the dance comes from a rather simple but immensely popular song written in 1860 by the composer and folklorist Ivan Laringov, and is translated as a “Snowball tree”. Initially, the song (and hence the dance) starts slow and the tempo increases with every new chorus.

Nowadays Kalinka dance has become a spectacular dance show: speedy movements, fast knee  bending, high jumps, beautiful Russian singing and, of course, the costumes. Male costumes for this  dance are quite traditional: bright kosovorotka shirts, dark trousers and high boots. Meanwhile, women wear wide skirts, so that they can freely move and jump around. Red and white colours are preferred.

Kamarinskaya (Камаринская)

Kamarinskaya is the name of a traditional Russian folk melody used for dancing, and is mostly known thanks to the Russian composer Mikhail Glinka’s overture. Kamarinskaya dance is based on the melody repeated over and over, and is replayed as many times until the dancers run out of any energy!

Lezginka (Лезгинка)

Lezginka folk dance has its origins among the Lezgian people of the Caucasus. Performed during family celebrations and on the professional stage, it is a male solo dance (often with a sword), but can also be a couple dance.

It is believed that the word “Lezgin” goes back to the root of the word “lek”, which means “eagle”. Therefore, Lezginka is often called the “eagle dance”: a male dancer personifies a predatory bird, and his open arms symbolize eagle wings. When a couple dances Lezginka, a girl becomes a “swan” – a metaphorical prey that the “eagle” eventually catches.

Another version says that the word’s root “lek” also means a mountain goat. Researchers note that many southern people, for example, Dagestanis, considered the mountain goat their totemic animal. They domesticated it and often depicted it in drawings. The dancer, rising to his toes, imitates the stand of the animal on his hind legs, and the arm extended to the side resembles a horn.

To conclude: almost every region of Russia has its own traditional style of dance (we haven’t mentioned Bashkir, Chuvash, Kalmyk dances and so on). You can find them on YouTube, but in order to truly experience Russia’s traditional dances, it is best to visit this magnificent country!