We are all well aware about various Russian numbers from the Nutcracker. The roots of the Russian folk music can be traced to the middle of the first millennium AC, the times of the sleigh. However, these tribes were known for their love and mastery of music, singing and dancing. The folk ensembles and it is these singers and dancers who have kept up the authentic Russian music and dance culture alive for generations to come. One fine example of such a tradition is the Troika dance. As the name suggests, the word ‘troika’ means ‘three horses’ in Russia. Hence, it becomes very obvious that Troika is a ‘trio’ dance. It is observed that there are horse–like movements in the steps of the dancers. A historically important Russian dance, Troika is one of the several cultural dances that have shaped dance in Russia and subsequently all over the world, even when some of the greatest dances left Russia to dance elsewhere.

How did the sleigh ‘Troika’ originate?

Troika originated as a method of fast transportation across Russia during the 17th and 18th centuries. Three horses were required to pull the sleigh. It was used so as to increase stability and evenly distribute the weight of the sleigh or cart. The first sleigh in Russia with fewer drivers than horses was Troika with sophisticated mail relay or communication system. Within a period of time, the design of the sleigh which included the bells, tassels, centerpiece and chains had become unique Russian symbols and were popular in festivals and weddings due to its beauty and grace. However, it gradually became prevalent in the Russian film, art and literature and demonstrated characteristics of the Russian people who are broad, audacious and elegant. 

How did the dance originate?

As mentioned earlier, Troika dance was created to imitate the Russian sleigh and is translated as ‘groupings of three’. Traditionally, the participants would be one man and two–three women. These participants would perform horse–like steps to simple and upbeat rhythms of the Russian music. The influence of the Troika was so much in Russia that the dancers imitated the prancing movements done by the horses while pulling the carriage. The participant at the centre is the stabilizer while the outside participants portray the outer horses and move quickly. The instruments generally represent the bells and the music made by the sleigh.

How is it performed?

The performance begins with three dancers standing side–by–side holding hands and prance for sixteen counts in any direction. The dancers change positions with the rhythm of the music when the participant to the right goes in front of the middle person and under the arms of the left and the centre participants. The dancers move to their original positions and the dancer at the centre then rotates so that all the three dancers are facing forward. This process is again repeated by all the other participants so that everyone is facing in the same direction. With hands on each other’s shoulders, the dancers move in a circle and stomp their feet three times, repeating the steps in the opposite direction. 

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