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Russian Student Talent Show celebrates International Women’s Day

A sheer joy of Brandeis University’s student body is realizing that it is an eclectic group of people from all over the world, whose distinct backgrounds are enriching and compelling—culturally speaking. Brandeis is celebrating “Russian Culture Week,” and the Brandeisians who possess Russian background or are interested in and/or studying the culture, decided to put on a show on March 9 at Rapaporte Treasure Hall.

The variety show was put together by the Russian Studies Program and the Russian Club. It was not just a show, as the “Student Talent Show” was dedicated to the International Women’s Day. Even though the event occurred a day after the holiday, according to the show’s presenters Eve Litvak ’16 and Ben Vizlakh ’16, it is never too late to be thankful for the women in our lives. The presenters also mentioned information about the progress of women’s roles in Russia. Despite still living in a conservative and patriarchal society, Russian men and women have equal economic rights. Dimitry Paranyushkin from “Way to Russia,” a Russian online publication, claimed that women make up 46.9 percent of the employed population. Most of the working women are found in the public health service (85 percent), education (81 percent) and credit and finance (78 percent), with the lowest turnout in the construction industry (22 percent). The presenters also assured that the society is progressing well and that the evening was utterly dedicated to women—who all received red, vivid roses at the entrance.

The show began with Mark Litvak ’17 playing the piano for “A Waltz in F minor” and “Waltz in C flat major.” Subsequently, Seth E. Evans-Diffenderfer ’18 played his guitar and sang two songs about love, girls and robots. One of them, titled “Punk Rock Girl,” a song about a “girl who does what she wants; she is a rebel.” David Libang Huang ’16 sang “Moscow Nights,” first in eloquent Chinese and later in his acquired Russian. The song was sung with a few vocal flaws here and there; nevertheless, the enthusiasm that Libang Huang brought to the piece was refreshing and gleeful.

Then there was a comic sketch performed in Russian by the students in the class of RUS 40, titled “Dreaming about the Oscar,” which mocked Leonardo DiCaprio’s recent, long-time coming Oscar win. It seemed frisky and playful, but the language barrier deprived a few from sharing the laughs, although the comic body language from the performers was fun.

The same occurred with a poem, titled “Mothers,” by the first Russian Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Ivan Bunin, which was recited all in Russian by Ivan Andrienko ’18. The selection of this particular poem joined the appreciative celebration of International Women’s Day. Even though half of the audience were Russian-speakers, some of the people in the crowd, including myself, were not capable of understanding the poem because of the language obstacle.

The rest of the show focused mostly on musical pieces. Jonah Garcia ’18 performed an improvisation on the piano. Natsuko Yamagata ’17 masterfully played a piece by Hungarian Franz Liszt, titled “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6.” She was electrifying, playing a piece that demanded nimbleness and practice—she had both.

As one of the final performances, the students from the RUS 20 and RUS 29 classes sang a children’s song about time, “The Blue Wagon” by V. Shainskiy. All the students wore mouse ears over their heads and formed a melodious sound either in the name of their Russian pride or cultural interest.

For the sake of being succinct, the show was lively and everyone involved seemed to have put a major effort to make it a success. It was a concoction of Russian students possessing varied talents and skills, which included performing not-so-Russian pieces, as well as students performing pieces that do pertain to the Russian culture.

I wish the show could have been more of an eclectic showcase of the distinct and complex Russian art forms. The show tended to focus primarily on musical pieces, not that there was anything wrong with this. However, to make “Russian Culture Week” a real commemoration, the show needed variety.

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