"Siberia 2007" story # 45

Tomsk, Russia           January 9, 2008

Siberians like to converse an awful lot. Too much, if you ask me. It's a relief when they just sing and dance.
     In mid-December, they and I danced the Moscovian "kadril", a pretty cool dance.
     At the "Bal Puteshestnikov" (Travelers' Ball), on the second floor of the train station (above the trains), elegantly-dressed people looked out the window down upon a bustling, snowy, pre-Christmas city plaza.
     On a Saturday evening, the "kadril" was one of many dances that called for us to constantly change partners.
     With each partner, we began in an embrace. I and the female stomped on the floor with the toes of our front feet, then sassily slapped those feet off the floor, and marched forward a few steps. We briskly turned around, stomped our other toes, slapped our feet ahead, and marched.
     We did this a third time. Then, we separated, except we held right hands. We hopped: towards one another, away from one another, around one another; like bunnies. We intertwined elbows, twirled around one another, exchanged partners as we twirled, and began anew. "Clap!" Our toes hit the floor. Quick, Russian music played.
     We also danced: a polka, in which we men danced with two women - one on each side - and were enclosed by the three sets of holding hands. We shuffle-stepped forward. (Polka is popular in my home state, Michigan, among families of Polish heritage. My mom, a good polka-er herself, says her Uncle Mike "kicks himself in the butt", he polka's so fast.) Eventually, each pair of females we danced with swooped their arms over our heads and left us for the next guy.
     During another dance, slow snake-charming music played. All the guys calmly walked around all the girls, each gender circling in a different direction. And, suddenly, a whistle blew, the music sped up, and everyone-grabbed-the-nearest-person-and-spun-around-really-q uickly, before, again, returning, to the calm walk.
     We danced Greek "firtaki" dances, in which we held hands in a circle and skated graceful, stepping patterns to ever-quickening music. This dance was the only one, I think, which received a louder applause than the Moscovian kadril.
     We danced spinning waltzes. To obtain partners, both genders formed two lines each. When it was my turn at the front, I might've held a flower. I then chose which one of the front females I wanted to dance with. I presented the flower to the other one, who would then have her choice of two men. My female and I began springing and bounding around the room, which gave me a dizzy, helium-like contentment. My gray tie, white dress-shirt, and sleek shoes, and the woman in my arms, flew past the ballroom walls.
     The most intimate dance was the slow waltz. There was no changing of partners; and I danced with a clever, seemingly older blonde. We held each other closely and stepped, patiently, in a box-shaped pattern. My partner wore a happy, horse-like smile and a thin, fleshy-pinkish dress.
     Some women wore wide, starched dresses and wigs from centuries-old aristocracies. Some men wore dark socks, white tights, the decorative blazers of people serve their "Royal Majesty", and even stuck-up noses.
     The ball's three best-dressed people (in my humble, professional judge's opinion) were, of course, women in their dresses.
     A girl with a sparkling smile and fawns' eyes said, "Dzastin!! Ty zdes? Kakaya sudba!" (Justin!! You're here? What fate!) She wore a pearl-white, shoulder-less dress whose breast cups seemed a bit big for her; pearl gloves to her elbows; and a hair-bun and little earrings that accentuated her pretty face. I wanted to kill myself for not being able to remember who she was. She was Darina, a tenth-grader from my high school.
     The local dance teacher and organizer of the ball, short-haired Oksana, wore a maroon dress that clung to her slender body like paint. Her breasts were practically naked, though maroon. Slits revealed the sides of her legs and thighs. She wore the young smile of a dreamer who'd like to see Chicago and Las Vegas. And she fell into a gliding embrace with her co-teacher, fresh but hawk-eyed Alyosh in a custard suit, as they tangoed.
     A third girl performed "flamenco" for us ball-goers. She was a little woman, in a little dress red like a Spanish tomato. Her big rump pushed against the fabric, almost bursting it, and, in her festive movements, the muscles of her thighs and butt were powerful and mesmerizing.

My friend, Pavel, wore an open, navy suit and sky-blue dress-shirt to the ball and no tie, because he's a Buddhist motorcyclist who likes the free life. A forty-year-old with shoulder-length hair, his Egyptian shoulder movements won him two honors: "Fontan Ulibok" (Fountain of Smiles) and "Originalnyy."
     After the ball, he invited me, Oksana (his salsa teacher), visiting salsa dancers from Novosibirsk, and others to his flat for an after-party. Oksana carried a bag and her dress to Pavel's car and commented that there weren't any gentlemen around. I, who both worshipped and respected her after having seen her in that dress, hurried to help carry anything of hers I could find.
     At Pavel's, we drank tea; Pavel played old, Russian rock on his guitar. I asked Oksana if she also enjoyed dancing to rock music, and I interrupted Pavel to turn on Chris Izaac's "Wicked Game" on the stereo. Oksana was delighted by the freedom with which we dipped and swayed to the rules-less rock music.
     Soon, salsa music played, and Pavel practiced his moves with a Novosibirskunk.
     I noticed the people from Novosibirsk were very creative. One guy lay on the ground, and girls kicked over and paraded around him. One girl kept putting her partner's arm over his head, over and over, laughing to herself, because she had to jump each time to do it.
     This girl, I would much later find out, was named Katyona. It's not fair to associate people with others; but she resembled my current, favorite girl in the world, who is far away.
     Katyona has colorful cheeks, eyes that know nothing but fun, no fear.
     There are times in our lives when we get so carried away with fun that we completely lose ourselves in the wonder. For many people, these times primarily come during childhood. But, Katyona seemed as if, even as an adult, she constantly found herself in these times.
     She was confident. Later on, when she became too hot, she took off her shirt and danced in her bra.
     We were soon salsa'ing.
     I was happy. Together, we were spontaneous. Every thirty seconds, we tried a never-before-done move to the positive music. Some worked out; some didn't. I crouched low to the ground, halfing my height, and stepped a circle around her. She smiled with glee. I tried making her bend over, and then bumped her. She explained that there was, in fact, a move like this, but I'd of course done it wrong.
     I dipped her. When I dip most girls, I practically have to push them to make them go backwards. She fell like a watermelon. I caught her, inches off the ground. "Ya nikogo ne ubil," I reassured her. (I've never killed anyone.) She said, "Ne nado nachinat." (And you don't have to start.)
     Salsa music became bachata, which is the Latin-American, more complicated version of slow dancing. Katyona kept helping me, to make sure I got the moves right. It was slow and peaceful (though complicated). We didn't need to do any turns, not even talk.
     The party ended. The Novosibirskers left Pavel's house, in order to go sleep at Oksana's. Katyona told me I could go to the train station in the morning in order to see their group off, and her friends looked at her as if she was weird. "Kuda eshyo mozem priglashat cheloveka?" (Where else can we invite the guy?) Ha, ha.
     Pavel and I congratulated each other for the night of our first Russian balls, and I walked through the wooden city to my green house.

- (silence)

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