Looking forward to our The Stray Dog Cáfe event in Velikiy Novgorod on Saturday, Yulia and I are looking at lots and lots of retro photographs. Unfortunately, there are not many pictures of the Cáfe, but there are many of the artists, dancers and poets that visited it and participated in its life.

I think Boris Pronin, who founded The Stray Dog Cáfe in 1912, was a genius event planner. Bringing together the best poets, artists, musicians, actors and dancers of the time, he created an atmosphere for incredible and unique performances. The Stray Dog Cáfe was not only a place where St. Petersburg bohemians could meet drinking coffee or wine but also a chamber venue where they could create together something very special and one of a kind. That was an experimental venue for many talented people that gave a chance to produce beautiful and inspiring performances.

In 1914 there was a legendary Baroque Dance Night with Tamara Karsavina. According to the memoirs, that was stunning! She was dancing baroque dances on a beautiful aquamarine 18th century carpet between live flowers and wooden baroque cupids. Dancing Karsavina opened the cage made of live roses and released a cupid (a child dressed as a cupid). That was a symbol of love that can’t be suppressed or imprisoned. All her admirers and ballet-lovers that were very lucky to come (for that night the Cáfe was overcrowded) were absolutely enchanted. As I worked at the Theatre Museum, I know that the same night Tamara Karsavina was given a unique album, a book created by the artists and poets frequented The Stray Dog Cáfe. The artists made portraits of Karsavina on the book’s pages. The poets wrote special poems devoted to her talent. I like a poem written by Anna Akhmatova, but especially the one by Mikhail Kuzmin. In the poem he compares dancing Karsavina with a figure skater in love who is carving on a frozen lake surface a monogram of his beloved one. I believe that this poetic analogy comes from the nature of Karsavina’s dance. Her movements were very focused and well-accented, so they could remind the ones of a skater striving for a balance while skating on one foot. Unlike Mikhail Kuzmin, I’ve never seen anyone making special figures. That must be exciting!  

There is no video of any night at The Stray Dog, neither of Nikolai Panin skating in the Yusupoff Garden, but there is a video of Tamara Karsavina’s Dance du Flambeau. She is captivating! Watching this video, one can easily imagine the magic effect she produced dancing an eccentric and fabulous Firebird.             

 I am excited for the coming event. We will be talking of Karsavina and many other legendary actors, poets and musicians frequented The Stray Dog. This time Yulia has a wonderful idea to talk about The Stray Dog’s buffet and also about chocolate candies and sweets existed in the early 20th century.

Come and see us in Novgorod this weekend!   

More information in Russian can be found  HERE

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