Dance Interlude

Our arrival to St. Petersburg was christened by the trinity: food, drink, and dance.  In the Georgian restaurant whose name currently evades my mind, my group of then 17 settled down after a draining flight for a hearty traditional Russian meal.  As we anxiously awaited the second course floating from the kitchen, we noticed a group of real Russians—gasp—seated opposite to us merrily chatted and basked in one another’s company.  I eyed them with intrigue.  As a human who is well-read on an enigma is ironically befuddled when he/she finally encounters it, I too felt oddly flustered and embarrassed.  These people who for the last week we had brutally characterized, stereotyped, and somewhat harshly vilified were finally in my living-breathing vicinity. 

The music ominously began to creep louder and louder and louder.  As it continued to soar, the bass valiantly pounded into each of our ears.  As if on cue, our Russian counterparts leapt from the respective seats and pounced onto the makeshift dance floor in the center of the restaurant.  My mouth gaped in disbelief.  To make the scene even more Broadway-esque, they eagerly beckoned us over, coyly daring us to join.  One brave student ventured out to the floor and like dominoes one by one other students followed: nearly half of the group had answered their enticing call by the song’s end.  As I anxiously slid back into my seat, yet exhilarated by the spontaneous series of events, I noticed one of the older gentlemen looking my way.  Moments later, the man emerged behind my seat with extended hand.  He stated in beautiful Russian something to the effect of “Shall we dance?”  After a moment of hesitation, I agreed.  Thoughts of immersion, not wanting to offend, and doing the exordinary traveled through my mind.  As we sauntered across the dance floor, I was completely confused.  These people we had merely a week ago labeled as cold and unwelcoming provided the greatest possible beginning I’d ever experienced.  As the gentleman escorted me back to my seat, I smiled at my discovery: I had found a bit of the treasured Russian soul.

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