By Mary O’KEEFE
When someone mentions Russian dance, most would think of classical ballet. But on Dec. 28 and Dec. 30, audiences at the Alex Theatre will see a different side to that stereotype – a side inspired by American jazz music.
About 25 years ago, Russia was a different place. The Iron Curtain was just beginning to be lifted and the rules of what was and was not acceptable were slowly changing. It was during this time that Vallery Tereshkin created a different type of Russian dance.
“We called it ‘Pantomime,’” said Olga Sergeeva, dancer and interpreter for Tereshkin.
Tereshkin was a champion acrobat who blazed a theatrical trail that reexamined what it was to be a Russian dancer.
“I studied musicals, listened to Duke Ellington and Bill Wyman,” Tereshkin said through his interpreter. “Many people don’t know that Bill Wyman [was a jazz artist].” Wyman, a bass player, is widely known as a founding member of the Rolling Stones but he is also a blues and jazz musician who performs with Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings.
It was this type of music, along with Louis Armstrong and Hoagy Carmichael combined with more obscure artists, who inspired Tereshkin.
He and his dance troupe first came to America in the late 1990s where they performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“We were young and inexperienced,” Sergeeva said.
They entered a dance competition that first year, but didn’t win. Sergeeva said they learned much from that first visit to the U.S. and five years later were winning competitions. The dance troupe is comprised of 22 dancers, all who have trained with Sergeeva in Russia at his dance studio. They have received recognition and awards from several festivals including the Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago. They now are a truly international dance troupe entertaining audiences in Mexico, Germany, France, China and Japan as well as in the Czech Republic.
The performances at the Alex Theatre will be a treat for those who know traditional ballet but who also enjoy something with a jazz twist. The Russian Jazz Ballet of Valery Tereshkin “Territory of Jazz” is being presented by ASA Art Corporation.
For tickets or information, contact the Alex Theatre box office at (818) 243-2539. Tickets can be purchased at Alex Theatre’s box office or the Americana at Brand Concierge desk. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.alextheatre.org. The performances are on Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 30 at 7 p.m.