Plyas, the mysterious Russian folk dance

Bouncy and reckless, Russian plyas at the same time has deep ritual meaning. RBTH met with Ilya Akhrameev who revives the tradition of the ancient Russian folk dance.

Russian folk dance is very diverse. Some are languid maiden dances, while others are a lively whirl with stomping and rhythmic clapping.

Like all ancient folk dances, Russian plyas had ritual significance, i.e. the ancient Slavs not only danced for pleasure and artistic purposes, but to accomplish some kind of ritual that usually involved connecting with nature or the gods, or entering a metaphysical realm.

It is believed that Slavic dancing or plyas was conceived as we know it by minstrels or "wandering actors", as they were called in Ancient Rus. They appeared in the 11th century, but gained widespread popularity in the 15-17th centuries at the crossroads of Russian history when the Rurik dynasty was replaced by the Romanovs during the so-called "times of troubles".

In the 17th century under Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (the father of Peter I) the minstrels were persecuted, but the tradition of Russian plyas continued to be passed on from generation to generation.

Russian plyas contains several traditional elements: step-dancing, leg-kicking, foot-tapping, and hand-clapping. It is essentially a mix of all kinds of stomping and slapping. It also frequently includes acrobatic elements, the most important of which is the ability to turn simple percussion into a beautiful, eye-catching combination.

"As according to some myths, God created the world while dancing, so do people create the world through rhythm and dance, filling it with light, movement, joy, kindness, meaning, music and sound," says our protagonist Ilya Akhrameev.

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