Feb 21

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day II – Party - Part I

The party was held at a restaurant with traditional Ukrainian food and décor styled after a Ukrainian khutor (farmstead). As I entered through the massive doors I was greeted by our host Solokha. Solokha is a very colorful and slightly naughty character from one of the most famous stories of Nikolai Gogol “Christmas Eve”, a witty witch, in a “bint el balad” kind of way LOL Solokha offered me a Brüderschaft shot of vodka and only then let me through. Throughout the evening she entertained us with her jokes and hilarious games with the audience. She also turned out to be an amazing saxophone player, playing among other songs 7:40 and Hava Nagila!
Partying with Solokha and her magic saxophone!

After Solokha’s welcome Aleksei showed me to our table with an astounding amount of scrumptious appetizers. I am omitting the pictures of the table only because you will find enough food imagery through this post. Trust me, there were many kinds of salo there, delicate seledka (herring), all sorts of pickles ( yummy pickled tomatoes, that always make me wonder why they are common only in East Europe and didn’t break into Western cuisines???), kholodets (jelled meat, mmmm) and much more!

ETA: Hell no, I decided to go for a tease and show you the appetizers.
Yummy appetizers!

Of course I made sure to taste from every dish, but then I was also careful not to get too full since I ordered something very special! One of my favorite foods of all times: borsch!!!

Allow me to present you with the borsch guide graciously shot by Zhanna Denisova! Thank you Zhanna, for following my whims!
So first you order borsch of course. Then you spot a tiny plate with cute little bombs on it. These darlings are called tovkach, they are basically another kind of salo LOL, lard mixed with tons of garlic, fresh herbs and salt. You put one into your mouth and savor the explosion of flavors! Then you grab a piece of rye bread and spread tovkach over it. Not thinly please! You are in Ukraine, treat yourself the same way you’d treat your guests! You take a bite and at the same time spoon the borsch… Ahhhhhhh… You are in heaven now! Your taste buds thank you and you thank Aleksei for making this dream come true. Lastly, don’t forget to check out other people’s plates and plan in advance your next gastronomical conquest!

And now I’m ready! Or at least I thought I was ready for anything, but, boy, was I wrong!

To be continued…

Feb 19

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day II – Workshops

The next day I got up early to brush up my workshop notes. Even though I am a native Russian speaker I’ve never taught in Russian before (only Hebrew and English) and I wanted to make sure I don’t waste time during the workshops trying to recall terms and expressions.
My apartment was located in the city center, a short drive from the workshops venue. I enjoyed the ride across Kalmius. The river was completely frozen, and it was fun to watch occasional people crossing it by foot.
The workshops were held at the Youth Arts Palace, a huge building with lots of dance studios, dressing rooms and a big theater, where the competition and the gala concert were held later on.

I caught a glimpse of Elena Ramazanova’s high energy lezginka drum solo, and then taught my first workshop - Sombati variations with sagat. Then Gulden Fatkula from Kazakhstan taught the most beautiful choreography to Warda’s Tab Wana Mali. And then me again teaching Turkish Roman fundamentals to an upbeat song. After I finished I caught a taxi back home to prepare for yet another party that deserves a post of its own!

Feb 18

IV Oriental Cup of Ukraine – Donetsk – Day I

It’s been two weeks since I got back from my trip to Donetsk, Ukraine and I’m still excited and grateful for every moment I spent there! It has been an amazing experience both on professional and personal level, and I can’t thank enough to Aleksei Ryaboshapka for inviting me.

So here we go, day one.

Early morning at the Borispol airport in Kiev, the beautiful city I was born. The temperature outside - -26C. It has been 21 years since my family and I left to Israel without looking back, not knowing whether we would ever be able to return. Skip some emotional moments here…
In the airport of Kiev, my city of birth

Donetsk, here I come!!! At the airport I was welcomed by Alina, my guarding angel, who made sure I had everything I needed during my stay. Thank you so much for your help! In the car I was surprised by a very special treat that Aleksei prepared for me. Pickles made by his mom and two kinds of salo!!! Aleksei remembered that I crave for it and made sure it welcomes me as I arrive! For those who don’t know what it is, salo is a traditional Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian food, but trust me, the best salo in the world is made in Ukraine, the rest are poor imitations!!! Cured slabs of fatback, that melt in your mouth, nom-nom!!! There are many kinds of salo, and during my stay I made sure I tasted them all :)
Warm Ukrainian welcome

With Alina’s help I settled down at my very warm studio apartment and in the evening Aleksei picked me up for the opening party where I got to meet some of the participants and the rest of the team.

Judges hanging out, clockwise: Elena Ramazanova, president of the League of Bellydance Masters and Zhanna Denisova, head of Alisha, an Oriental Dance School in Tolyatti, Russia scheming world domination, Zhanna and Irina Demchuchina, head of Amira, an Oriental Dance school in Chernovtsi, Ukraine, Elena Ramazanova and Gulden Fatkula, a master teacher from Kazakhstan, me and our generous host Aleksei Ryaboshapka , Elena Ramazanova, Gulden Fatkula, Elena Veretennikova, head of Eishta, an Oriental Dance school in Perm, Russia and Irina Demchuchina, Irina Demchuchina and Elena Veretennikova.
Hanging out at the judges table

And the party goes on! RA studio of Donetsk (Aleksei’s students) on fire!!!
RA studio on fire

Highly emotional moments: Elena Ramazanova dancing lezginka for Aleksei
Elena Ramazanova dancing lezginka

Hugs with everyone!!! Clockwise: with Alina, my garding angel, with Gulden from Kazakhstan, with Valeria Bakurova, who won second place at the Eilat festival competition, with Alyona Zhokhova, a gorgeous dancer from Donetsk.
Hug anyone?