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The Golden Gates: Connecting Communities Through Dance and Culture

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

GoldenGates

Written by Olivia Nilsson ’18; Photo by Kyle Maples

In February the Golden Gates dance troupe brought their electric dance moves and Russian folklore influences to UNCW's Warwick Center. The troupe, consisting of 15 dance students from St. Petersburg, Russia and the Republic of Georgia, travels throughout the United States for two months performing at venues such as schools and churches. Each year, different dance students come to the U.S. with the troupe. 

This was the troupe’s second trip to Wilmington. The troupe last visited the area two years ago. The connection was made thanks in large part to Roza Starodubtseva from the Department of World Languages and Cultures. In 2013, Starodubtseva received a $100,000 grant to develop and conduct an immersion Russian language camp at UNCW. While looking for possible camp activities, she got in touch with the agency Moscow Nights, and then the Golden Gates dance troupeThe group agreed to perform at UNCW during International Week. 

The original idea behind inviting the Golden Gates dance troupe to UNCW was to connect the campus community and area residents with the Russian-speaking community, to showcase a variety of Russian cultures, and to “excite, teach, and involve other communities.” Starodubtseva describes the event as a “celebration meant to introduce Russian culture, as well as cultures of other countries of post-Soviet space. to our surrounding community."  

The event is a chance to “demonstrate our culture and traditions to Americans,” one of the dancers explained. Starodubtseva clarifies that in Wilmington alone the “Russian community has over 1,000 members.” It is important for these people to keep their traditions, to build up their community, and maintain their native langue. When Starodubtseva speaks about Russian cultureshe does so with great pride. For Russians, she explains, “hosting is a big part of our culture. You take care of your guests.” She, with the help of many kind host-families, made sure the dance troupe’s members were taken care of while in Wilmington. Dancer Sasha explains that the stay was a great experience and “the families were both friendly and hospitable.” Dancer Ivan gushed about the “kindest of host-families.”   

The UNCW Russian club has 35 membersFarzona Usmanova, communication studies major and club presidentworks hard to advance the mission of the club: promoting Russian and Slavic culture. The club welcomes everyone - people with Russian backgrounds or people interested in learning more about the culture. Usmanova explains that “getting recognition and interaction” from the outside community is critical for the club.   

With only five weeks to the date of the performance, Usmanova planned the Golden Gates event on campus. She reached out to numerous departments for donations and sponsorship, and secured a venue and a caterer. The Office of International Programs sponsored the event by paying for the performers. The Department of Inclusion and Diversity was eager to help and sponsored with the renting of the venue. The Department of Music and the Department of Theatre also served as event sponsors.

The event was highly appreciated by faculty, students, and members of the community. “The Warwick Center was alive” and the audience was cheerful and excited; they were “clapping along, playing instruments and dancing with us,” Golden Gates dancer Veta explains. After the performance part of the event, there was a roundtable discussion. The idea was to “exchange viewpoints and show gratitude towards each other.” The discussion session was an “extremely interesting experience,” dancer Sasha explains.  

Starodubtseva hopes they will be able to bring the troupe back next year. Great connections were made during the short visit. Starodubtseva explains that on the day they left “there was a lot of hugging and crying.” She hopes some of the dancers will apply to enroll in UNCW’s international program and come here to study in the future. Starodubtseva says that many of the dancers seemed interested in UNCW’s international summer program.  

Usmanova smiles when she speaks about her meeting with the dance troupe. “I will never forget them,” she says. She explains that they “keep in contact” and that she would “love to see them again.” Usmanova is excited about showing more people the joys of Russian and Slavic culture and traditions.