The development of dancing in Russia

Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi

Submitted to DanceArchives by Stanislav Popov:
25 years of Russian Dance Union (RDU)

2012 is the year of anniversary for Russian Dance Union. Our organization is 25 years old now. We are happy to greet all the faithful admirers of ballroom dancing and would like you all to share with us our love for it.

Our story started in Soviet Union. There was no such freedom in getting information and traveling at that time as we have now. But there was a huge enthusiasm of people who saw ballroom dancing as their life choice and destiny. In spite of strong pressure from party and government bodies, dancing studios in our country existed where young teachers, engineers, students –truly amateurs studied the basics of dancing. Many of them later started to do it professionally.

The beginning of ballroom dancing development in the Soviet Union was marked in 1957.

The beginning of development of competitive ballroom dancing in Soviet Union was marked with a competition held in 1957 during the World Festival of Youth and Students in Columnar Hall of Union House in Moscow. The ballroom dancing competition of such a high level and with foreign participants and judges was held for the first time. The first place went to Marion and Norman Grande (Great Britain), and the best couple of that time, European champions Harry and Dorin Smith-Hampshire performed a show. They received fantastic appreciation, the applause lasted for 15 minutes. The importance of their performance then can be proved by the fact that they were invited to Kremlin with other participants for the government reception.

In the 1960s the first dance studios started to appear in Moscow.

One of them was a studio of Bruno Belousov in community centre “Khimik”. Nowadays Bruno Belousov who has already celebrated his 75th anniversary continues to work in his studio and in Russian Dance Union Presidium. Many of those, who can now be called maitres of Russian dancing, started in his studio. One of his students in 1960-s were Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi.

At that time dancing studios only started to appear in different cities of our country and first Moscow and all-USSR competitions were held. But apart from dances included in international syllabus, so called “soviet syllabus” was performed. It included the dances of USSR people, traditional ones stylized for ballroom. Party and government bodies controlled not only the obligatory inclusion of those dances, but even the costumes of the couples.

Nevertheless the development of ballroom dancing was already unstoppable.

In 1972 the first All-USSR Ballroom Dancing Competition was held in Moscow with the inclusion of international syllabus. The program consisted of several parts: international (10 dances, but polka instead of jive), historical (4 dances) and soviet (36 dances). The winners were Lithuanian couple Cheslovas and Jurate Norvaisha.(pictured on right with John Tan)

In 1975 Second All-USSR Ballroom Dancing Competition was held in Kiev. The participants performed three dances of their choice from each of two groups (from 8 dances of soviet and international syllabus). Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi won that competition. 

1975 is memorable also because the official championships of socialist countries started to be held. And in 1979 an exceptionally important event took place in our country – we hosted the fourth Championship of Socialist Countries here. In Modern the winners were Vitas and Dalya Kamaitis, and in Latin and 10 dances the winners were Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi.

In 1978 in “Integrated Sports Classification for 1978-80s” the words “sport dancing” appeared for the first time. All the necessary documentation for that for Ministry of Sports was prepared by Leonid Magaziner, Alexander Chekotkin and Stanislav Popov. However, party bodies interfered again and didn’t give way to this initiative.

Starting from the 80s, soviet couples started to regularly take part in international competitions in socialist countries. And the best couples presented USSR at the official amateur and professional competitions. Before that performances were just episodic and only for professionals who got personal invitations from the organizers. At that period the studio of Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi actively worked. (pictured on right)

Such famous dancers as Petr and Alla Chebotarevi, Vladimir and Olga Andrukini, Talyat and Marina Tarsinovi, Igor and Ivetta Kondrashovi, Vladimir and Elena Kolobovi, Leonid Pletnev and Vian Arif, Artur and Maria Lobovi, Alexey and Svetlana Dmitrievi were in this studio. All of them later became the members of a new professional organization.

At that period the first amateur and professional organizations start to appear.

At first in 1982 all-USSR Soviet of Ballroom Dancing was created. Cosmonaut Leonid Popov became the Chairman, Cheslovas Norvaish was Vice-Chairman and Stanislav Popov became the Chairman of competitive division. The same year Stanislav also became the leader of Moscow State Section of Ballroom Dancing Teachers and in 1987 at the all-USSR Musical Society artistic commission of ballroom choreography was created by Stanislav Popov. It became the direct predecessor of the Russian Dance Union. On its base in 1988 Association of Professional Performers and Teachers of Ballroom Dancing was established. Later it was transformed into Russian Dance Union. Since 1988 RDU is the full member of international professional organization WDC.

The history of RDU competitions dates back from October 1988.

In those days Stanislav Popov organized the first all-USSR professional competition, and for the first time the soviet syllabus was excluded from it. The dancers competed only in Modern and Latin dances! The competition wasn’t called a Championship yet, but its winners can be probably called our first national professional champions.

Those names are:

  • in Modern – Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi
  • in Latin – Yuris and Biruta Baumanis
  • in Modern Showdance – Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi
  • in Latin Showdance – Talyat and Marina Tarsinovi

And soon after the national competition in December 1988 the first Moscow International Professional competition took place with the leading dancing couples of the world taking part. At that event the organizers, Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi retired from competitive dancing with their last farewell slow waltz. And in the Gala-show, two times World Latin Champions Espen and Kirsten Salberg and five times Latin Champions Alan and Hazel Fletcher took part; with their “Latin Fantasy II”. The show of outstanding experts of ballroom dancing not only amazed the Moscow audience but gave a huge impulse to Russian dancers.

Next years national championships were held annually in all styles. And Moscow International Competitions – once in every two years. There were four of them: the second one  in 1990, the third one  in 1992, and the fourth one in 1994. Collecting this experience, in 1995 Stanislav Popov started to organize a new annual international competition – World Challenge Cup (now named “World Latin Cup” in Kremlin, officially registered as “Trade mark” in 2009). For these 17 years the competition became one of the most beautiful and prestigious professional event in the world. And of course, it’s the most recognizable one of all Russian competitions.

The first World Cup took place at the “Malaia” Sports Arena in Luzhniki.

Couples competed in two styles: Modern and Latin. During the two days the hall for 8000 places was full. The names of the winners say everything about the level of the competition. In Latin the winners were at that time 11 times World Champions Donnie Burns MBE and Gaynor Fairweather MBE (Scotland), and in Modern – World Vice-Champions Augusto Schiavo and Caterina Arzenton (Italy).

Our Russian couples that took part in the finals:

  • Victor Nikovsky and Larisa Davydova
  • Sergey Duvanov and Svetlana Tveryanovich in Latin
  • Gennadiy Gunko and Alla Chebotareva
  • Leonid Pletnev and Tatyana Pavlova in Modern

Starting from 1996, the World Cup was held in the Banquet Hall of the Kremlin Palace in the very centre of Moscow. Many guests, especially foreigners, started to call the World Cup “Kremlin Cup”. Only Latin-American dances were left in the schedule. The competition became more exclusive – the number of the audience became less, the atmosphere – more intimate, but not less warm than in Luzhniki. Donnie Burns and Gainor Fairweather again won the competition in 1996.

After that Jukka Haapallainen and Siirpa Suutari won the Kremlin Cup three times and Brian Watson and Carmen won it four times. From Russia we had Sergey Ryupin and Elena Khvorova and later Slava Kryklivyy with Elena Khvorova as the winners.

In 2007 for outstanding service in development of ballroom dancing art Stanislav Popov was awarded with the honorary title of Russia – “Honorary Worker of Art”. The awarding ceremony was held in Kremlin by President Vladimir Putin.

Established in the first place as the professional dancers and teachers organization, nowadays RDU successfully develops amateur division in WDC&AL. At the latest RDU Championship (6-8 April 2012) 1300 amateur dance couples took part. The victory of Russian Junior Team in Blackpool 2012, and the World Amateur Latin title won by Kirill Belorukov and Elvira Skrylnikova and many other achievements of amateurs can prove the success of this development.

For the last several years RDU grew not only in quantity but mostly important in quality.

Traditions, established 25 years ago, got their further development. For the last two years RDU Championships are held like one unit, the United Dancing Festival; including competitions in all ages and styles in amateurs and all styles in professionals(except 10 dances). And there is one more new interpretation of traditions. In the RDU as an artistic organization it was a tradition to note colleagues merits with personal awards. Now the award has its name – “Recognition” Prize. And on 5th of June 2012, the first Tuesday after Blackpool, for the third time already it will be given to best of the best at the Grand gala-dinner. Producer of this event in 2010-2012 was Leonid Pletnev.

And to finish the article, one more very interesting document – an English newspaper (Dance News) article from 1983 reported about that years World Modern Championship, where the couple from USSR (in text-from Russia) took part in it for the first time: Stanislav and Lyudmila Popovi. And the author hoped that maybe some day such championship would be held in Russia. But it was presented as something unbelievable. Almost 30 years passed, and in our country not only official championships are held regularly, but our dancers become champions. The author of that article in English newspaper couldn’t even dream about that.

That particular World Championships included entries from 21 nations, represented by 34 couples; the top dancers of each nationю. These nations included RUSSIA – as yet little-known in the world of Ballroom Dancing, but whom we know to be amongst the worlds leaders in other forms of dance, such as Ballet. Perhaps we may now look forward to seeing a World Ballroom Dance Championship held in Moscow at some future date? Is it a possibility?

Considering their lack of experience in this type and class of event, the two couples, Vladimir & Olga Andrulein and Stanislaw & Ludmilla Popov, acquitted themselves remarkably well, finishing amongst the worlds top 24 couples.

See more results of Russian couples in official WDC Championships

1 comment
  1. Dear Sir / Madam

    Thank you for your insights into history of Soviet and Russian ballroom dancing. Fascinating!

    Just a small question – I was somewhat puzzled not to see the names of Viktor and Nadyezhda Davidovski from St Petersburg (Leningrad) who as I recall were one of the leading couples in the Soviet Union.

    Thank you in advance for your guidance.

    Best regards, IvanB

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