The origins of the “Russian Sailors Dance”
The history of the “Russian Sailors Dance” dates back to the 19th century.
Different sources claim that the dance originated in England, Ireland, Poland and even Moldova, and has a lot in common with their national dances…
Today it’s hard to say how this dance looked like in its initial form. Many moves used in the “Russian Sailors Dance” are typical of the Russian traditional dance.
The author of this melody is also unknown.
The melody of the “Russian Sailors Dance” gave rise to many chastushkas (short humorous or satirical folk songs written by unknown authors). The beginning of the 20th century marked the biggest popularity of these short songs based on the “Russian Sailors Dance”, but they can still be heard in Russian villages:
“Ekh little apple,
Where are you rolling?
I am tired of my wife
Let’s go whoring.”
The Sailors Dance as a getaway
Sailors tend to spend a lot of time in confined space. When the Russian fleet comprised sailing ships, sailors had to do a lot of physical exercises. Later it became easier from a physical perspective, but the lack of movement and psychological tension caused constant stress. That’s why the dance gained so much popularity in the beginning of the 20th century since it helped to spill all the energy kept inside!
It’s also worth mentioning that this dance has been performed only by men for a very long time.
During the dance arms are usually held behind the back or folded in front of the chest while the body is moving up and down. That’s how many sailors could perform the dance simultaneously in confined space.
Each dancer goes to the center when it’s his turn, and tries to amaze other sailors with his moves. So it becomes a kind of competition. What’s more, every participant is free to express himself in any manner he chooses!
It’s better to see the dance once than read about it twice:
The modern performance of the “Russian Sailors Dance” – the State Folk Dance Ensemble named after Maestro Igor Moiseev (2015):
The classic performance of the “Russian Sailors Dance” – the Russian Sailor Dance Ensemble from Kronstadt (1966):