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Fourth annual Festival of Russian culture planned for Saturday

Posted: October 27, 2011 - 12:01am
  Courtesy of Alexander Dolitsky
Courtesy of Alexander Dolitsky

The fourth annual festival of Russian Culture will be celebrated in Juneau this weekend at Centennial Hall. The event that combines music, dancing, addresses from visiting and local dignitaries and an art exhibition. Organized by the Alaska-Siberia Research Center, led by Juneau resident Alexander Dolitsky, the festival runs from at 4-7 p.m. Saturday and is free and open to the public.

The festival will begin with opening remarks by AKSRC chairman Dolitsky, Mayor Bruce Botelho, state Sen. Dennis Egan and Russian Deputy Consul General Nikolai Vinogradov, followed by an anthem ceremony that will include the Russian national anthem, U.S. national anthem and Alaska Flag Song.

Musical performances are set to start at 4:30 p.m. First up is well-known local singer Kathleen Wayne, who will be accompanied by Tatiana Scott on piano. Wayne’s local performances include frequent work with the Juneau Lyric Opera and solo performances with the Juneau Symphony, as well as appearances with Opera Fairbanks. Standout performances include the lead role in JLO’s production of “Carmen” and roles in Puccini’s “Suor Angelica” and “Tosca.” Pianist Scott was born in Moscow, and has lived in the U.S. since 1991. An active soloist and accompanist in the Bay area, Scott also coordinates the musicianship program between American River college and Colorado State University of Sacramento. In addition to performing with Wayne, Scott will give a solo piano performance during the festival.

Next to perform will be the New Archangel Dancers and the Sitniks. The Sitka-based New Archangel Dancers is an all-volunteer, all-women dance troupe formed with the goal of preserving Sitka’s Russian history through the dance. They perform Russian folk dances as well as styles from surrounding regions (including Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine) and wear authentic traditional costumes. The SitNiks, who frequently accompany the New Archangel Dancers, is a musical ensemble that plays Russian folk music on traditional instruments including the balalaika, concertina and the domra. The group, also based in Sitka, includes Kris Fulton; John Fulton, Bree Hack, Mike Litman, Ritch Phillips, Pattie Skannes and Jeanne Stolberg.

Last on the program is a performance by local violinist Steve Tada and Haines pianist Nancy Nash. Tada, who has been playing violin since he was five, has played with the Juneau Symphony, Juneau Bach Society and other groups and is an active teaching artist. Recent performances include a benefit concerts for the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council’s Fine Arts Scholarship Fund and for the Canvas. Nash is a multi-instrumentalist who primarily focuses on oboe and piano. Like Tada, she is an active teacher in Haines. For this performance she will be playing the piano.

For the past three years, the Festival of Russian Culture has been called the “White Nights” festival, a reference to the festivals popular in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and other Russian cities in late June, when the sky doesn’t darken at night. This year the name was changed to “Living Wisdom of the Far North” to reflect the time of year (it’s not summer anymore) and to create a link to Dolitsky’s recently published book of the same title. The book is a collection of 10 stories — two original stories, four Siberian Yupik Eskimo stories and four Chukchi tales — that explore the link between the cultures from which they originate. The Yupik and Chukchi stories, previously published in two separate volumes in 1971 and 2000, were adapted from Russian translations of oral recordings, later translated into English. In the new book, Russian and English versions of the stories appear side by side, with separate illustrations accompanying each one.

The illustrations for the books, created by Tamara Semenova, of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Leigh Rust, of Citoria, Austrialia, will be featured at the festival as part of an art show in the Centennial Hall lobby. The art exhibit runs from 6-7 p.m.

Dolitsky’s other books include “Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi,” “Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia” and “Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East.” Born in Kiev, he first came to Alaska in 1981, settling in Sitka then Juneau in 1986. In addition to his books, he has worked as a professor, lecturer, archaeologist and social scientist. The Alaska-Siberia Reasearch Center, which he directs, is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan educational and research institution for thought and opinion on Alaska-Siberia affairs and cultures.

The Festival of Russian culture is also sponsored by the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Washington, D.C.; Russian Consulate in Seattle, Alaska Litho, Inc, Taku Smokeries, Alaskan Brewing Co and the City and Borough of Juneau.

For more information, visit aksrc.homestead.com or contact Dolitsky at adolitsky@gci.net.

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