Berezka russian folk dance how is it done

Meet Russia's Gravity-Defying Answer to the Rockettes

Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr

On a dimly lit stage, dozens of cloaked figures rise in unison under a somber, blue glow. As the spotlight grows brighter, the dancers are revealed; all unshakeable smiles and sparkles in their conical gowns that seemingly glide – no, float – across the stage like a life-sized music box. It’s enchanting, it’s eerie, and it’s kind of Russia’s answer to the Rockettes: the Berezka Dance Ensemble. Words don’t do these ladies’ footwork sorcery justice, so first things first, have a look:

Unreal, right? The dance, also spelled “Beryozka”, was invented in 1948 by Russian ballerina and choreographer Nadezhda Nadezhdina and literally means “little birch”, as the women would usually dance holding birch twigs. Today, it endures as one of Russia’s most iconic dance troupes, but Nadezhda was always quick to say that this wasn’t your average folk dance – this was the dance of the future. “Beryozka’s dances are not folk dances,” she said, “They are dances whose source is the creative work of the people. But composed by me”.

Nadezhda Sergeevna Nadezhdina (1908-1979).

As with everything in the USSR, the prevailing norms favoured the work of the working class group over the individual. And the new Soviet woman, as exemplified through the Berezka dancers, was yet another highly polished team player with an evergreen smile. As Daniel Jaffé explains in Historical Dictionary of Russian Music, “there was a drive against vulgar ‘gypsy’ dances, waltzes, and tap dances associated with the decadent West and America in particular”.

The dancers in the 1970s. Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr

Thus, while the first of Nadezhda’s dancers were young farm girls from the current Tver region, they shuffled around the stage in silence to intricate dance patterns that felt much less folk-y and a lot more like life-sized Packman. It was unprecedented blend of old and new, with elements of the 1,000-yr-old folk art form, khorovod, which calls for circle dancing. “The khorovod is characteristic of all Slavic peoples,” Nadezhda told The New York Times on tour in 1972, “Its roots go back to pagan times. The circle represented the sun and the khorovod was danced to the god of the sun, Yarila”

Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr

Come 1951, they were so popular that the crowd literally swelled out of the building during their show at the Stockholm Music Academy. Above all, their ‘gliding’ dance style sent a fierce new message: the USSR is here, and it’s unbreakable. Same look, new ‘tude.

The key to how the dancers float has also remained a bit of a mystery to anyone outside the ensemble. “That’s a secret of the firm,” Nadezhda told the NY Times in the same interview, saying that “Not even all our dancers can do it,” she said. “You have to move in very small steps on very low half‐toe with the body held in a certain corresponding position.

Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr
Manuel Palomino Arjona via Flickr

Most impressively, Nadezhda’s troupe garnered praise both in and outside of the USSR throughout her life. In 1950, she won her country’s prestigious Stalin Prize; then, in 1959, she was awarded the Joliot-Curie Gold Medal by the World Peace Council. In that sense, Berezka was pretty amazing at finding a way to glide in and out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Article about Berezka by The Free Dictionary

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.


(full name, the State Choreographic Ensemble Berezka), a choreographic ensemble of Russian dance. It was organized in 1948. The ensemble’s organizer and director is People’s Artist of the USSR N. S. Nadezhdina. The name of the ensemble is taken from the first production of the Russian girls’ round dance Little Birch (Berezka) staged in 1948 to the music of the Russian folk round-dance song “A Little Birch Stood in the Field. ” The dance was performed by the women of the ensemble holding birch twigs in their hands, personifying the image of the Russian girl, her purity, beauty, and grace. During the company’s first decade, female graduates of the Moscow Choreographic School and the most gifted female members of amateur arts groups performed in Berezka. The best numbers of that time included the round dances Little Birch and Little Swan and the genre scenes Spinner, Snowstorm, and Maiden’s Quadrille. The dances are accompanied by an orchestra of folk instruments. The company’s programs comprise fluid women’s round dances, lyrical dance miniatures, spirited dances, and comic dances, reproducing in poetic choreographic images the everyday life and rituals of olden Russian times. The dances are often based on folk melodies and songs and are frequently accompanied by the unrestrained choral singing of the dancers.

The inexhaustible wealth of Russian dance folklore, as well as the desire of the choreographer to reflect modern times in the dances, brought about the need to add a male group to the ensemble (1959). The first works of the mixed ensemble were the choreographic scenes Carousel, Shrovetide, At the Autumn Fair, and Moscow Polka. The dances of the men’s group are primarily humorous— Bachelors, Jesters, and others. Variety distinguishes the style of Berezka’s later programs. Some dances are now being based on popular songs by Soviet composers (“In the Evening on the River” by Mokrousov and others), the choreographic poster Meeting the Dawn (on the melody of revolutionary songs), and others. In touring the USSR, the talented company demonstrates high dance art and disseminates Russian folk music and dance.

Berezka is known by the whole world. The ensemble’s concerts in more than 50 foreign countries, as a rule, have been called “a holiday of grace, poetry, youth, and beauty.”

There are more than 100 members in the ensemble. Among the female dancers are Honored Artists of the RSFSR D. S. Agafonova and N. G. Riabova, and V. V. Suvorova, L. A. Krauzova, K. P. Romanova, L. I. Pavlova, and L. M. Butenina. Artists of the men’s group include V. I. Boborykin, M. M. Khomiakov, V. D. Marchuk, and G. G. Korolev.


Chizhova, A. Tantsuet “Berezka.” Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

The secret of the Beryozka ensemble: what is the secret of the floating step

January 25, 2019

Russian Seven

perform the choreographic composition "Birch".

Photo: Russian SevenRussian Seven

Right on the bull's-eye

Video of the day

A few minutes after their debut professional performance, 16 artists from the Kalinin (now Tver) amateur ensemble turned into an object of universal admiration. nine0003

The slender beauties, circling in a round dance to the melody of the Russian folk song “In the field, there was a birch tree . ..” conquered the audience with their grace, beauty, sincerity and amazing floating step, which became the symbol of this ensemble.

Are they floating or standing still?

The creator of this unique dance step, the secret of which has not yet been disclosed, is the legendary founder of the Beryozka group, Nadezhda Nadezhdina, who led her brainchild until the last days of her life. nine0003

When the dancers gracefully and sedately lead their round dances, the audience gets the impression that the dancers are standing still, and the stage is spinning under them. Floor-length sundresses that cover the girls' legs and do not sway when walking keep the secret of this amazing movement, which choreographers from all over the world are trying in vain to unravel. floating step. Although its current leader, Mira Koltsova, denies this information. She sees the reason for the silence of the artists of the collective in their high professionalism, devotion to Beryozka and the desire to preserve its originality. nine0003

Never performed at open rehearsals, the sliding step, according to some choreographers, results from the fact that the soloists make a special step through each movement, imperceptibly pushing the hem of sundresses and creating a smooth swaying effect. However, their theoretical conjectures remain so far without practical evidence. In the meantime, the soloists of "Birch" in the entire history of this dance have covered more than 47 thousand kilometers with their mysterious step, which exceeds the length of the Earth's equator. [С-BLOCK]

A fateful lithograph

Along with the mysterious step, the hallmark of the Beryozka dance, which begins each performance of the ensemble, has become a surprisingly simple, but brilliantly accurately reflecting Russian nature and culture costume. Nadezhdina created it based on a lithograph she saw in childhood, which depicted girls frolicking in a round dance. They were dressed in sundresses, and in their hands they held green birch twigs, which gave their image nationality and solemnity. nine0003

It should be noted that the costume designers did their best, as they exactly realized the idea of ​​Nadezhdina and dressed the populist soloists radiating a unique radiance in a long red sundress, a white blouse with a lace pattern on the sleeve and a handkerchief, blue as a piece of the sky, completing the image delicate birch "bouquet".

Despite the fact that today the artists of the Beryozka ensemble change more than 20 costumes and headdresses during a two-hour concert, on all posters in all corners of the world they show off in stage attire intended for the dance from which their enchanting story began. nine0003

Triumphal tour

By the way, the tour of the Russian folk dance ensemble took place in more than 80 countries of the world. And every time it was a triumph, they always received enthusiastic comments from critics and viewers.

The level of skill of the Soviet team made foreigners forget about the Cold War, enjoying spiritual art that cultivates faith in the brotherhood between people and gives rise to good feelings. Personifying Russia, acquainting the foreign audience with the Russian character, soulfulness and beauty, "Birch" contributed to the destruction of the barriers erected by politicians. nine0003

The merits of the ensemble in this field were so significant that in 1959, after a Paris concert, it was awarded the gold medal of the World Peace Council.

Struck by the magical floating step and the semantic load of the round dance "Birch", the foreigners, standing, applauded the dancers who embody the beauties from Russian folk tales.

Choreographic short stories

In addition to the dance that gave the group its name, other choreographic short stories were shown to admiring audiences in the course of foreign tours, in which the richness of Russian culture was revealed in the original language of plasticity. nine0003

The compositions "Swan" and "Carousel", "Troika" and "Spinning Spinner", "At the Autumn Fair" and "Siberian Suite", "Sudarushka" and "Patterns", like many other numbers of the ensemble "Birch", opened for foreigners non-hostile Russia with a human face.

Other, Mira Koltsova, Nadezhda Nadezhdina,

Russian style: Americans about the dance "Birch"

We used to think that all the best things happen and are born abroad. But this is not so, including in the dance field. Yes, we all know how popular classical Russian ballet is in the world. But there are many other dance disciplines, whose domestic representatives surprise the whole world with their professionalism. nine0058 starts a series of articles about such styles and commands. The first in line is the dance "Birch".

No need for condescending smirks! For us, this "Birch" may seem like something provincial or hackneyed - it just so happened that in our country our traditional national dance is not taken seriously by the majority. Whether business in the West.

For example, in 2012, a video with a dance performed by a Russian group in one of the Swiss theaters was published on Youtube. Let's read the comments:

"It's like in a video game where one character is copied and they hang over the ground together."

Basically, users were surprised at how technically difficult this dance is to perform:

"It's hard to imagine how many hours of training and practice it took to do this ... Amazing and beautiful"

Someone made a comparison with popular ones in America styles:

"Meanwhile in the USA girls are doing twerk..."


"Where's the diversity? In the US we need dancing fat black women, skinny gay Asians, short haired girls and lesbians. Bring this style to us in America, we'll diversify it."

This summer, the dance video appeared on the American portal Reddit, becoming for a while even the leader in the number of discussions.

Here are just some of the comments:

Beriozka - Traditional Russian dance where the dancers perform on their tippy-toes (en pointe) to give a floating appearance. nine0087

Most tried to present their own versions of how the dancers could do it. Many did not believe that it was possible to move like this without additional devices. Users began to seriously discuss the projects of such technical devices:

"They have props there"

"They dance on the slope, and therefore it seems that they move smoothly"

"They are on wheels!"

Someone tried to joke:

"Imagine if someone falls, then everyone else falls like a domino, too." nine0003

"It's like in a horror movie where ghosts float above the floor..."

But, of course, there were many who admired what they saw:

"It looks incredible! How do they do it?!"

"Russians can do the impossible!"

Videos with the dance "Birch" occasionally, but appear on the net on a particular site and each time cause a storm of emotions. And this means that the Russian national dance for the Western audience is something unprecedented. The potential of Russian folk dance, like "Beryozka" and many others, is huge.

Learn more