Russian Christians are reviving 19th century-style balls. They’re uptight, they're proper, they’re strict, but guess what? The youth loves them
A hundred years later, glamorous formal balls are making a major comeback in Russia.
And they are doing so with the blessing and support of the Russian Christian Church.
In fact, most balls are organized by Russian Christian volunteer groups. Balls are held during the major Christian holidays, such as Easter, Christmas and the Meeting of the Lord in the big cities of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The only time they're not allowed to happen is during any Lent periods.
The revenue from the balls goes to charities, most commonly orphanages. Months of intense preparation precede the event. Youth meets for dance training, rehearsing the polka, waltz, mazurka, etc.
No one wants to stumble around, glaringly unprepared, in the ballroom.
Of course, meanwhile, they are making friends.
The ball itself begins with a short church service led by the supervising priest. It proceeds according to a tight schedule, which includes dances and a few short music performances. The balls almost always feature live music.
All in all, they're pretty structured, formal affairs which retain all the traditional rituals of the genre: men in frocks ask women in long dresses to dance. The dances are precise, rehearsed, and elegant, with no pretense at the wild abandon of night clubs.
Yet despite the modern conception of fun as necessarily unstructured and informal, the excitement at these events is exhilarating.
Some church members vocally object to the trend, maintaining that dancing is sinful by nature, citing the Holy Elders. Yet most church officials maintain that balls offer a purer, healthier model for friendly interaction and making friends than do others than other mainstream entertainments. And ballroom dancing also provides a completely different model for gender relations: men treat women gently, carefully and with respect; women learn to fall in step with their cavaliers and to follow their lead.
To celebrate Easter, is it better to go to a bar or club than to twirl around with other minded people, discussing music, taste, tradition, and dance under the supervision of spiritual guides, as the world outside becomes more vulgar by the moment?
And judging from the rapid growth of the trend, the general consensus seems to be that this outdated, yet still brilliant, fun, still charms the Christian young adults that so often lack fun activities that align with their values.
And so: let them dance.