Russian Theme at the Gala Ball
It was at the annual fund-raiser gala at the Danube Swabian Club in Scarborough where Russia, or better yet the Ukraine, came to visit the Danube Swabians, formerly close neighbours, on this memorable evening.
It all started at six o’clock in the mezzanine of the club with hors d’ oeuvres, shrimps, lamb chops, champagne, wine, vodka, and a fabulous Contreau-Vodka-Cranberry punch - served from a white china fountain.
Tuxedos and some very elegant wardrobes added to the festive atmosphere. But the elegance didn’t stop there. When the dining hall was opened to the guests they were greeted by fabulously formal and spectacular table settings and decorations, including huge gilded mirrors beside the stage, faux windows on the walls with Russian landscapes, and huge floor lamps reminiscent of Olympic flames.
On each table was a centrepiece of an ivy plant and peeking out from the inside was a little Matryoshka doll. This was the prize for the lady at the table that evening whose birthday was the closest to this date – the 16th of March. These dolls have been around since the 19th century and are a very popular Russian souvenir.
Brigitte Wecker, the MC for the evening, explained that Matrisoha was a popular female name and associated with the image of a mother of a big family who was very healthy and had a portly figure. Subsequently the doll was named Matryoshka and is considered to be a symbol of motherhood and fertility. A mother doll with numerous doll-children stacked inside perfectly expresses the oldest symbol of human culture in Russia.
Brigitte Wecker not only introduced the honorary guests present but also the first part of the Russian entertainment, Nicolai Tichtchenko, who would play his Balalaika during dinner. The 130 cm tall, diminutive native from Kiev however was a giant in his own right. While playing his Balalaika he switched from Russian to Greek and Hungarian, as well as German music. His repertoire was the stuff of legends. One of the guests remarked "Isn’t it fantastic what one can do with only three strings?".
The dinner itself? It was also legendary and based on Russian cuisine. Here is a short rundown: Appetizers: Pickantine (Eggplant Salad), Kishinen (Fried Eggplant & Cheese), Solenia (Russian Potato Salad), Crépes stuffed with Caviar Cream, Pickled Shitake Mushrooms. Soup: Pelmeni (Beef Consommé with Perogi). Main course: Brizal Russia (Veal Roulades stuffed with Mushrooms), Tabaka (Roasted Cornish Hen), Baked Potato and Red Bell Pepper stuffed with cabbage, followed by a St. Petersburg Ice Burg for dessert. Well, kudos to the tremendous efforts of the cooks and the other personnel that helped to make this evening the success it turned out to be.
Toni Baumann, the president of the Danube Swabian Club, addressed the guests and explained that the reason for the Fund-Raiser is to reduce the mortgage payments as much as possible in the near future.
Next on the agenda was the entertainment everyone was waiting for: Maria Vinogradova and her cast of talented dancers and singers from the Masquerade Theatre International (MTI), and the fabulous costumes they were showing off to this appreciative audience.
Maria explained: "The company (MTI) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to educating and increasing the public’s appreciation of the aesthetic arts by providing theatrical performances of high artistic and professional standards".
Originally the company was organised in 1992 by a troupe of Russian performers who were stranded in Toronto and unable to return to Russia due to a failed production, which left them without financial resources. You may recall Echo Germanica’s involvement in trying to help this group to survive.
In 1993 the group officially settled in Canada as all of its members were granted the landed immigrant status. Since then the company successfully performed on stages across Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. In Toronto at the CNE, Ontario Place, Harbourfront’s Premier Dance Theatre, Leah Poslun’s Theatre, at Canada Day celebrations and Television as well as Caravan and other festivals, plus the Ed Mirvish’s "Snow Maiden" at the Alexandra Theatre that turned out to be a very successful production.
The costumes that were shown by this talented group were indescribably gorgeous and dating back to the 16th and 17th Century with an appearance of Catherine the Great of Russia and her entourage being a highlight of the program, plus a variety of local costumes steeped in the folklore of old Mother Russia.
The recent influx of Russian and Ukrainian natives has made this culture much more visible in Canada, and MTI is doing its part. The costumes are in the design of the various regions of Russia. The emphasis is on rich embroidery, lots of it intricately woven in gold tones with very elaborate and beautifully crafted headgear. You could tell the performers were quite proud of their costumes and eager to show them off to the best advantage.
Afterwards Maria Vinogradova, who has an impressive lot of credentials – including a Master’s degree in Philology of Russian language, literature and history from the Moscow State University, and all the members of the group re-entered the hall for a final round of applause by a very appreciative audience.
It was a truly great event and an evening to remember.
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