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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

PAPARAZZI: Ice Show Safe After Wet Tour In Pacific

Thanks to help from some concerned Kiwis, the Moscow Ice Circus has just returned home after spending two months more or less stranded on the other side of the world.

The circus' tour to New Zealand ran into trouble last September when the promoter went bankrupt. Things got worse when its first week of outdoor shows in Auckland was rained out. Of course, that is always the risk when performing on ice in the South Pacific.

Perhaps, moved by the sad idea of a circus on ice melting, a new promoter came forward and a group of New Zealand companies offered sponsorshipsand discounts that helped the Moscow troupe stage a show in Wellington last October to pay for their stay and the price of air tickets home.

The P&O Nedlloyd shipping company also helped out by bringing back the ice circus' equipment, which had been standing idle in New Zealand. P&O's Moscow office oversaw the transport of the cargo, some of it refrigerated, which arrived in St. Petersburg last week.

Another big sponsor was the New Zealand Dairy Board, which is a major supplier of butter to Russia.

Angelica Annaesa, a manager of the Moscow Ice Circus, has happy memories of her trip, despite the ups and downs. "We were very exotic for them ... and at the end of our last show in Wellington, the children came to the rink to touch the ice," she said. "When we broke up the rink, they began playing with the pieces."

She said she was grateful for the New Zealanders' support and has invited all the sponsoring companies to attend the next Moscow Ice Circus performance in Russia -- near Moscow's Gorky Park. Of course, it is a long hike from New Zealand.

Not Really Religious

Preaching the gospel has never been an easy task, and the conditions of modern, decadent Moscow make the job that much more difficult.

That, at least, was the lesson learned by Hearts of Soul, an eight-piece American gospel group based in Paris that spent the past two weeks spreading the good word, and good tunes, at Chesterfield Cafe.

The rhythm and blues part of their act, composed of slickly presented covers of classics like "Tears of a Clown" and "I Will Survive," was well received by an enthusiastic Russian and expatriate crowd.

But the Sunday gospel sessions faced the combined hurdles of the holiday season and the unfamiliarity of the music. "There was a low turnout for the first gospel night," said Theos Allen, one of the group's four singers. "When we asked the audience to say 'Amen,' well, it was pretty quiet."

The band has a regular weekend slot at the Chesterfield Cafe in Paris. And while the band is not associated with any particular religious denomination, members said there is a great deal of spirituality to their performances.

"We call it 'The Church of Chesterfield,'" said singer Joniece Jamison.

"Going to play is like getting up and going to church," Allen added. "We're like ministers; you can see it in the faces of the people listening."

Keyboard player Frank Sibon is unique in the group for being French, white and Jewish, but he says the band is very tolerant.

"They try not to say 'Jesus' too much at our pre-concert prayer, saying 'Lord' or 'God' instead," Sibon said. "Sometimes they forget, but I know they're thinking of me."

Allen said that Moscow had inspired the band to write some new songs. "While the lyrics are not directly inspired by Moscow ... at certain times we pray together, and all places have a special vibration."

Learning to Be Indian

A select audience at the Indian Embassy last Tuesday saw the unusual spectacle of a group of Russians doing their best to imitate the delicate movements of classical Indian dance when some of the students at the Nermala School for Classical Indian Dance in Moscow performed in the embassy's D. P. Dhar Hall.

Alexandra Denisova, 26, appeared to have learned her lessons well. Wearing a rich-blue sari with gold trim, she gave a graceful demonstration. "Indian is simply the most beautiful form of dance," she said after the show.

Dance instructor Irina Yelantseva said the Nermala school started in 1986 when Indian Embassy staffer Nermala Ramachandran put in an appearance at one of Yelantseva's own Indian-dance-inspired performances.

Nermala offered to show Yelantseva the proper way to do real Indian classical dance. Yelantseva put herself in her new-found guru's hands, followed Ramachandran to India in 1989 and, upon her return, opened up her own school.

On hand for last week's show were two teachers from the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Center who have been teaching at the school in Moscow. Dance instructor Ashwani Nigam and tabla drumming teacher Keshab Kanti Chowdhury said they each have more than 100 students.

Artist and designer Anna Hoffman, 22, who is studying traditional katak Indian dance at the school, says that the greatest challenge for Russians in performing Indian dance is to reproduce the facial expressions that are an integral part of the art.

"The clothing, the movements, the makeup alone don't help," she said. "We have Russian faces, and unless you have the right feeling, it's going to show in our faces -- and the dance won't work."

A Successful Comeback

Armenian-American Gary Chaplas has just marked a new stage in his family's triumphant return to the former Soviet Union after a 20-year absence.

He is recovering from the party he threw last Friday for the opening of Papa John's Bar & Grill, which he manages. "In the past few months I haven't had any sleep," he said.

Chaplas was born in Leningrad where his Armenian parents were studying and then went to school in Armenia. When his parents moved to Los Angeles in 1978, he made the transition easily. "I was a kid, and I didn't stick out," he said.

Chaplas returned here in 1995, and the misgivings his parents may have felt about the former Soviet Union have been wiped away by the success he's enjoyed here since 1995. "I guess I made them change their minds," he said.

The new restaurant builds on the success of the Johnny the Fat Boy diner located upstairs in the same building in central Moscow, and also on a fleet of 10 catering trucks Chaplas operates. For anyone wondering about the names of the restaurants, Chaplas father, who is involved in running the business, is called John.

Lesson Well Learned

A cautionary tale about corruption and public conveniences emerged from a group of young Germans who were enjoying the atmosphere at the Papa John's opening.

"I got into trouble here," admitted Fritz Noth, a bearded, slightly devilish-looking 19-year-old who is working for Russian charities in Moscow as part of his alternative to military service in the German army. Part of a group of nine, he cares for elderly people and works at a home for disabled children.

But returning home with friends one evening shortly after his arrival in Moscow last summer, Noth started looking for a toilet. With none in sight, he decided to do as the Russians do and use the local park.

Despite the olfactory evidence that the practice is widespread in Russia, Noth soon realized the error of his ways. Vigilant police were on hand and Noth found himself under arrest and traveling in the back of a police car.

"I didn't know what was going to happen to me." Noth said, laughing. "You hear these awful stories about prison here, and that they beat you up at the police station."

Noth said the officers offered to let him go for a "fine" but he took a firm stand. "I said, 'I'm not going to pay; I'm going to stay until tomorrow.'" Police relented and let Noth off with a warning.