It’s unlikely the kids at the Harmony Hall Regional Center summer camp in Fort Washington will see a band of Cossack cavalry men gallop through Prince George’s County. But they can still get a feel for what Cossack music and dance is like from the three Russian performers who will visit the center on Wednesday.
“It’s folk dancing and music,” says Mikhail Smirnov, co-founder and artistic director of Barynya [pronounced ba-rin-ya], a Russian, Ukrainian and Cossack folk music and dance company based in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“It’s ageless, and it’s for everybody,” Smirnov says about the show, which is open to summer campers and the general public.
Smirnov will visit Harmony Hall Regional Center for the first time with another musician and a dancer to perform an hour of traditional dance and music from southern Russia and the Ukraine in colorful costumes.
The trio will perform dances from the Cossack military culture, known for the kozatsky, in which dancers squat down and kick their legs in front of them, sometimes with arms folded and sometimes spread wide.
“It’s very difficult to do,” says Smirnov, who explains the company is made up of dancers who have been trained in Russia.
Also on the program are traditional Russian Gypsy songs, such as “Dark Eyes” and “Two Guitars,” he says.
The trio also will play Russian folk instruments, including the balalaika, a three-stringed, triangular instrument similar in sound to a mandolin.
Smirnov, who also will play the garmoshka, a Russian accordion, says he tells jokes during the performance, which will even include a Russian bear or, at least, a tall performer in a Russian bear costume.
“It’s a huge bear,” he says. “It’s very entertaining.”
The performance will be Barynya’s first at Harmony Hall Regional Center.
“It’s a little different,” said Lawrence Knowles, arts director at Harmony Hall, which is run by the Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation.
The organization runs a series of two-week camps during the summer for theater, visual arts and photography students.
Knowles says he thought Barynya would not only appeal to the theater group because of the music and dancing, but also to visual arts campers.
“There are colorful costumes, which is a very pleasing visual palette,” he says.
Children enrolled in the Harmony Hall sessions pay no admission, but there is a charge for campers from other county Parks and Recreation facilities, as well as for the general public.
The Barynya performance is the third of five Kid’s Day Out performances hosted on Wednesday mornings.
Coming up on July 18 is Urban Artistry/Urban Dance, with demonstrations of hip-hop, the footwork-focused house dance, and locking, in which the dancer temporarily stops moving, locking in a certain position.
On July 25, the Dakshina Dance Company will perform a sampling of salsa, hip-hop, ballet and fusion.