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Cossack dancers balancing a sword
Cossack, Russian & Slavic dances

         Kazaks (Russian) or Kazoks (Ukrainian) are better known throughout the United States as Cossacks (Turkic word meaning Outlaw, Adventurer or freebooter/freeman). These Cossacks developed from Southern Russia and the Ukraine from the 15th to early 20th Centuries.

    The ordinary dance of Russians is mainly of very ancient Slavonian (Croatia) origin, mixed with some Tatar (Mongolian

tribe) elements. It has nothing in common with the existing country dances of Europe. It has no whirling or leaping, but is marked by the gentle, one might say tender, walk of the woman and by much bowing on the part of the man, who sometimes bends his knee and rises again suddenly. Whoever has seen Chinese, Mongols, and other Tartars dance, recognized in the Russian art many of the steps.

    Originally, these Russian dances had less correspondence with the manners of neighboring people, in spite of their climate, with its extremes of heat and cold, in spite of the northern element of their character, the Russian had no very energetic dance. His conditions of life had been too oppressed. "He moved in a small confined place, pirouetting slowly, and performed a rather heavy Pantomime, in which his shoulders, arms, and hips had full play." Military habits did much for the men. That of the men (the oppressed became the oppressors) was imperious and lively, the spirit of domination being displayed in their bearing and gestures. A long guitar-like instrument, the Balaléica, accompanies these turns.

    So much for the men, and now let us see what chance there might be for a certain liveliness in the Russian women of the times. Amongst the Kalmucks, the women's dance was monotonous and tame, a sad Pantomime. Most of the women walked to perfection, and it is a very rare art, that of walking gracefully and simply, while being watched. The Makovitza, or Dance of Cakes, was a form of harvest thanks-giving, sometimes a petition for plenty. Each girl here carried a cake made of honey and poppy-seed, and ate it to the rhythm of the dance; whether be it fast or slow, she dared not to fall out of her steps.

    The introduction in the Russian Court of foreign dances coincided with the adoption of foreign dress and other customs; The Polonaiseand Mazurka were very popular and in the time of Peter I, aka. Peter the Great (1682-1725,) king of Aragón and Sicily, where ignorance of the Minuet or of Polish and English dances was looked upon as a serious defect in education. Peter the Great and his daughter Grand Duchess 'Yelizaveta Petrovna' made great leaps in bringing the dance to the forefront of the stage. In Russian courts, the Polonaise dance opened the dance and the Mazurka would finish it.

    The Czarina of Russia, Catherine II, aka Catherine the Great (1729-1796) was very fond of the Ballet, and commanded beautiful dances, operas, and pantomime type ballets and the Queen of Hungary, Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898) was a most accomplished dancer as well as the Grand Duchesses Yelizaveta Petrovna and others. It was said that in order to see the minuet danced to perfection one should go to the Russian Court. Even the national country dance was performed with much cleverness by their sovereign.

    The Russians, it appears, have a special Waltz, light, graceful in character, called the Canaïca. Dancing in Russian society was very much like that in other countries, with the Polonaise of course, opening the ball and that in Russia the ball always ended with a Mazurka. There is an orbicular dance with a sung chorus, surrounding the queen of the festival. Another dance is the Pletionka (the braid), somewhat similar to the Greek Chain dances.

    In 1768 a ballet was given at Court in honor of the vaccination of the Czarina and the Grand Duke (Moscow). It was called 'The Conquered Prejudice.' In the background of the stage was the Temple of Æsculapius; on the left a large ugly building erected by ignorance.

    (According to Lonely,) "the roots of Ukrainian folk music lie in the legendary kozbar, or wandering minstrels of the 16th and 17th centuries who accompanied their songs of heroic exploits (mostly of the Cossacks) with the kozba, a lute-like instrument. The bandura, a larger instrument with up to 45 strings, replaced the kozba in the 18th century. Bandura choirs were soon all the rage, and the instrument became the national symbol. Today, the Ukrainian Bandura Chorus from Kiev performs worldwide."

    Giovanni Andrea Gallini writes in her book called "A treatise on the art of dancing" which was written in 1762 states:
The Cossacks, have, amidst all their uncouth barbarism, a sort of dancing, which they execute to the found of an instrument, somewhat resembling a Mandolin, but considerably larger, and which is highly diverting, from the extreme vivacity of the steps, and the a oddity of the contortions and grimaces, with which they exhibit it. For a grotesque dance there can hardly be imagined any thing more entertaining. The Russians, afford nothing remarkable in their dances, which they now chiefly take from other countries. The dance of dwarfs with which the Czar Peter the Great, solemnized the nuptials of his niece to the Duke of Courland, was, probably rather a particular whim of his own, than a national usage.

   There are many different kinds of Ukranian dance. One type dance is 'The dance of the Ukraine' which was originally a mixture of Polish, Russian, and even English mix (Ukraine at one time was part of Russia). It was not as graceful as the Russian country dance. The above according to F.C. Notts Book "Stage and Fancy Dancing"(1891) is the position at the Commencement. Balance, Forward, and to Right and Left, each waltz to the right once, and balance as before. Each gentleman the same, repeat four times; and finish with balance waltz round the room, forming as before, and closing with the grand side step.

   MALENKY TANEC means "little dance" in Ukranian. It is danced with high steps and kicks, lively in nature which are typical of dances of this country.

    In America, the Russian dance was usually performed with what they called 'Kazotskys', where the dancer squats down, crosses their arms across their chest and kicks their legs out alternately. Altho this was an already established Hungarian dance called Czardas and not Russian, most Americans would not know the difference and still today would see it as Russian dancing. Ida Forsyne was one of the first American woman to do these 'Kazotsky's' at the end of her performance in her Moscow program. These "Kazotsky's where done long before her but after this one performance, and her improvisations of it, she would be hailed (incorrectly) as the greatest Russian dancer of all time as she traveled the world for nine years without a break. For about 15 years this style Ida started would be done by many dancers in Vaudeville and even on the Broadway stages from 1911 to 1925 (Russian dancing was popular before Ida in the States and was a popular style to do in Vaudeville as early as 1900, but Ida brought it to the forefront.)

   Russian / Hungarian dancing was popular in the States especially in American Vaudeville as early as 1900, but Ida Forsyne brought it to the forefront, up until Tap dancers started to control the stages. Ida Forsyne, Greenlee and Drayton, U.S. Thompson, Willie Covan, Dewey Weinglass and others would excel in these quote "Russian Dances," (some were actually Ukranian and Hungarian dances mixed in) often times calling it Legomania and sometimes a mixture these and other dances were called Eccentric dancing after WWI.


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Ukraine / Russia 1400s and 1700s Serfs Slavic

Sheet Music Covers

Animated Cossack Dancer actually Czardas  (Hungarian)
| More PHOTO's |

Music CD's

Cossack Dance (1883) 633 Squadron; The Dambusters March (CD)
Cossack Dance from Mazeppa Best of the Red Army Choir (CD)
Kalinka Classic Brass (CD)
Katusha From Russia /w Love: Don Cossack (CD)
Moscow Nights Kaleidoscope (CD)
Russian Pony Rag (1910) Paul Plishka sings songs of Ukraine (CD)
Sabre Dance (1948) Russian Folk Dances of the Moiseyev (CD)
The Don Cossacks Russian Popular & Traditional Songs (CD)
  the Don Cossacks Russia: Greatest Hits (CD)

~ Various Music Titles ~

Ay da ne iz tuchuski veterochki duyut   Posledny den krasy, bratsy, moyey
Cossack, the [MP3]   Poyekhal kazak na chuzhbinu dalyoko
Kak u nashikh, u vorot   Proleti-ka, strela
Kalinka [MP3]   Prosnulas stanitsa
Komandyr nash bravy   Russian Dance {trepak] (Tchaikovsky)
Mazeppa, opera Cossack Dance [MP3]   Shto ty, zhinka, guby zhmyosh
Okh, zhily-byly   Slavanic March [MP3] (Tchaikovsky)
Ot pletnyovykh ot vorot   So balitiyskogo vozmorya
Oy, kak na reke bylo, na Kamyschinke   Shepherds Dance [MP3]
Oy, rastvorite mne tyomnuyu temnitsu   U vorot sosna zelenaya
Oy, ty Rossiya, matushka Rossiya   Vy katachki-kaza
Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, the (1920s)   Zabolela u Mashi golovka
Po moryu   Moscow Nights [MP3]
Polno nam, snezhochki  

Night Clubs / Buildings etc.



1920S - New York, Chicago, Coney Island etc. Broadway Theatre (1980) Australia
1928 - Plantation Club (Revue), Chicago Hippodrome Theatre (1920s) Bulgaria
1940s - Prince Igor (Chicago) Music Box Theatre (1961) Caucasus Mountains
1946 - The Yar Restaurant (Chicago) Neil Simon Theatre (1990) Germany Israel
temple of Æsculapius Royale Theatre (1980) Poland
Video Clips (pop-up)

Films --- Russian / Slavic / Cossack Related

Ballets / Stage

Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1901 - Cossack Cavalry Many Ballets (ie: Nutcracker Suite)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1912 - Heart of the Cossack 1740s - Matrimony and The Ballet of Flowers
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1916 - The Cossack Whip 1740s - The Union of Love
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1927 - Troika 1883 - Mazeppa
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1928 - The Red Dance (Dolores del Rio) 1958 - Beryozka Russian Dance Company
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1934 - Rise of Catherine the Great 1961 - Once There Was a Russian
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1934 - Scarlet Empress, The 1970/80s - Shell Folkloric Festivals
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1937 - Duma pro kazaka Golotu (full film) 1980- A Night in the Ukraine
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1937 - Troika sur la piste blanche 1990 - Don Cossacks
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1939 - Bukovina, zemlya Ukrainskaya 1994 - 'The Cossacks Are Coming!'
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1940 - Katharina I. von Russland 'Bailes Rusos'
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1943 - Ukrainian Dance Refuge of Virtue (Sumarokov)
  1945 - We are waiting for you on your victory! (Russian)  
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1947 - Slavica (full film)


Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1951 - Kavalier zolotoj zvezdy 2/1924 - Dance Lovers Mag
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1952 - V stepyakh Ukrainy 9/1929 - Asia Magazine
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1952 - Kontsert masterov ukrainskogo iskusstva 4/1960 - Ballroom Dance Mag
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1953 - Russian Folk Dance (Pyatnitski Choir) 11/1971 / Dance Magazine
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1953 - USSR Today $ Dance of the Russian Peasant (Rubinoff)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1953 - Zaporozhets za Dunayem $ Era of the Russian Ballet (Roslavleva)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1954 - Stars of the Russian Ballet [DVD] $ History of the Cossacks (Glaskow)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1961 - Ukrainskaya rapsodiya $ Louis Chalifs: Russian Festivals and Costumes
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1963 - Pyatnitskogo - Russian Dance $ The Cossacks 1799-1815 (Spring/Hook)
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1964 - Russian Folk Dancers - (Pyatnitski Russian dancers) $ The Cossacks: an Illustrated History (Ure)
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1965 - Double Red Academic Song & Dance Ensemble (Dance of the Cossack) $ The Cossacks: Everyman's Library
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1967 - Orel Matanya - (Pyatnitski Russian dancers) $ Russian Sailors Dance (Gliere)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1969 - Troika $ Russian Dance of Death: Civil War ... (Neufeld)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1977 - Turning Point (Ballet) $ Terek Cossacks and the North Caucasus Frontier, 1700-1860
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1988 - Russian Folk Songs and Dance [VHS]
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1990 - Russian Folk Song and Dance [DVD] 1965 Double Red Academic Song and Dance Ensemble
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1992 - Back in the U.S.S.R  
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1998 - Troika  
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 2001 - Russian Dance  
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
2010 - Russian Dancing Men (Animation)  

Other Related Dances ...

Arkan Folk Dance Makovitza Round dance with scarves
Barynya Gate, the Malenky Tanec Slovak Dance
Ballet Georgian classical dance Mazurka Spinning Wheel Dance
Berceuse Gypsy dance Moldavian Dance Siberian Lyrical dance
Beryozka Waltz Hopak Mongolian Dance Sudarushka (smooth Ballroom)
Byelorussian Dance Hora Pereplyas Sword Dance (Cossack)
Canaïca Huzul Dance Pletionka the Shepherds
Casaska Kalinka Plyaska Trepak
Caucasian dance Katinka Po Plashke Troika
Chanve-Souris Kazachok Polka (rhythm Ballroom) Ukrainian dance
Czardas Chiropody (ring dances) Polonaise Varen`ka
Czarina Korobuchka Polzunets Vesnianky
Dance of the Cossacks Kozachok Prokhodka Waltz (ballroom)
Dance of the Ukraine Khorovod Rilo (rhythm blrm) Waru-Waru (rhythm blrm)

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Cosack Dancers doing the Trademark Dance of the Cossacks (actually Czardas dance=Hungarian) 1950s - Lydia Pushyk Empress Elizabeth (1837-1898)
1950s - Lyudmova Pavlova (ÙB) Catherine I (1725-1727)
1950s - Mira Koltsova (ÙB) Catherine II [the Great] (1729-1796)
1950s - Mykhailo Doschak Countesses Dolgoruky
1950s - Nahezhda Nadezhdina Countesses Golovkin
1950s - Natalya Anuriv Grand Duchesses Anna
1740s - Agrafiena and Aksinya 1950s - Nina Ryabova Grand Duchesses Yelizaveta Petrovna
1740s - Jean Baptiste Lande 1950s - Nina Vasilieva (ÙB) Grand Duke of Moscow
1752 - Alexandre Popov 1950s - Poltava Ukrainian Dancers Peter I [the Great] (1682-1725)
1752 - Ivan Dmitrievsky 1950s - Valentina Suvorova (ÙB) Princess Cherkassky
1910 - Alexander Russian Dancers (Coney Is.) 1952 - Serge Jaroff Princess Kantemir
1911 - Ida Forsyne 1954 - Halyna Shyhymaha  
1913 - Ivan Bankoff (& Girlie) 1954 - Melville Ukrainian Dancers

Other Russian Dance Names

1914 - Eva Taylor 1956 - Vladimir Kania Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)
1914 - Greenlee and Drayton 1960s - Vasile Avramenko Bolshoi
1920s - U.S. "Slo Kid" Thompson 1967 - Fedir Melnyczuk Diaghilev
1920's - Willie Covan 1968 - Mykhailo Spryn Moiseev, Igor
1921 - Clotilde & Alexandre Sakharoff 1968 - Nina Lubtchenko Kirov
1922 - Chauve Souris (did czardas) 1968 - Olia Lubtchenko Moiseyev
1928 - George Staten (Plantation Club) 1968 - Slawka Shilo Petipa
1930s - Dewey Weinglass 1968 - Victor Shilo Ulanova
1950s - ÙBeryozkaÉ Dancers 1968 - Vladimir Kania Vaslav Nijinsky
1950s - Halyna Leheta 1968 - Wolodymyr Lubtchenko  
1950s - George Pushyk 1970s - Kalyna Ukranian dancers*  
1950s - Irma Pomchalova (ÙB) 1986 - Roztiazhka Dancers*  
1950s - Jella Agfonova (ÙB) Russian State Kuban Cossack Co.  
1950s - Julia Grabekina (ÙB) Marie Gates (1928 USA)  
1950s - Klavdia Romanoa (ÙB)    

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...





A treatise on the art of dancing Gallini, Giovanni Andrea 1762 R. Dodsley (London)
'Ukraiinski Narodni Tanky' Virsky, Pavlo 1900s? n/a
Modern Dancing and Dancers Flitch, J. E. Crawford 1912 J. B. Lippincott Company
ÙBeryozkaÉ Dance Co. Russian Folk Co. Nadezhda. Nadezhdina.
1965 Russia Novosti Press
The Ukrainian folk dance Shatulsky, Myron ? Kobzar Pub. Co
Ukrainian Shumka Dancers: ... Major, Alice ? Reidmore Books



Poets / Writers

Scherbian, George B. Gestwicki (Lustige Blatter mag. 1927) 1928 - Gates (Red dancer of Moscow)
Romanoff, Boris      
Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich (1840-1893)        

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Alcind Kazotsky's Minerva Slavonic, Slaviks
Bylyny Kiev Russia (U.S.S.R.) "The Merry Tsarina"
Chimera Kozbar Russian plyaska  

  • dance Collectable: 1996 Russian Nutcracker coin (Rouble), 1980 Olympic Roubles Soviet folk dance