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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No More Dancing In the Dark

Russia may be suffering from cultural brain drain with many of the country's best dancers leaving for greener pastures in the West, but ballroom dancing is undergoing a significant revival.


To prove that the genre is alive and kicking in the former Soviet Union, the First Open Championship of Ballroom Dancing in Russia opened Wednesday in the CSKA sports hall and ends in a grand finale competition Sunday.


The dancers offer a parade of tacky costumes, but they take the championship seriously considering it a "very prestigious event."


Man or woman, boy or girl, everyone wears heavy layers of dark pancake makeup. Women sport 1-1/2-inch long false eyelashes and fancy plastic jewelry. Boys wear patent-leather slippers, widely cut black slacks for the foxy Latin American look and tuxedos for the more conservative European dances.


More than 700 couples from Russia and around the Commonwealth of Independent States, as well as a special team from Germany are taking part in the championship.


Among the participants are the World Cup 1993 winners Alexander Melnikov and Irina Solomatina from the Moscow dance club Line, one of 80 local clubs in the competition.


Couples specialize in either Latin American dances, such as rumba, samba, and cha-cha-cha or European dances like the tango, the slow fox-trot, the waltz, the quick-step.


Long banned as Western propaganda, ballroom dancing has become quite the rage in Russia, whose dancers have recently gained recognition in international competitions in Europe.


"It had always been underground. People had to dance in the dark," said Alexei Prodkov, manager of the Russia Club, one of Moscow's most successful dance clubs. "Now it is considered a very modern thing that is very popular among rich people."