Yolka: The Performers

On December 6th, NWLA will host “Yolka,” another installment of our popular Language of Food Series, focused this time on the holiday traditions of Russia.  The event will, as always, feature delicious food – and the opportunity for guests to learn the secrets of the cuisine for themselves in a cooking class earlier in the day – good company, and world-class performances of music and dance.  A unique treat at this event, we’ll be including a Russian “bazaar” of specially imported gifts and handicrafts – on which more to come.  For now, we wanted to introduce the performers who’ll be bringing their talents to the evening event.  Take a look below, and be sure to visit our website to reserve your tickets today!


bigBeginning the evening will be a “Vertep” production by the Kovalsky Youth Group, led by Yelena Kovalsky, featuring Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish Christmas carols. The original meaning of vertep is cave, secret place referring to the cave where Christ was born. Participating in one, or watching a vertep is a traditional way for children to celebrate Rozhdestvo Khristovo, the Christmas season.

Juliana & PAVA

NWLA is honored to have Juliana & PAVA in the line-up for our Yolka event. This vocal ensemble performs ancient Russian folk songs, keeping timeless traditions alive through music and education.


The ensemble will perform beautifully harmonized songs that have been part of rural Russian life for centuries, some performed a cappella, and others accompanied by authentic folk instruments, like the Russian hurdy-gurdy and balalaika.  These songs are part of the cycle of the year as experienced in a typical Russian village, and the singers wear colorful, authentic costumes – some of which are over 200 years old – as part of their performance.

The group was founded in 2000 by Juliana Svetlitchnaia, a Russian singer and ethnomusicologist, and has become well respected for both their singing and their cultural education programs.  Among their many notable performances were the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, where the ensemble represented the Russian community of the United States (see the videos below), and participation in Zeriab, the first postwar international music festival in Baghdad, Iraq, by invitation from the Iraqi Ministry of Culture.

Juliana Svetlitchnaia, the leader of PAVA, was declared “Person of the Year” for 2008  by the Russian Cultural Center and the Russian Consulate General in Seattle, and the following year was awarded the Russel Jaqua Award for Artistic Excellence.

Sample her group’s amazing polyphonic singing in the videos below, filmed at the Vancouver Olympics:



Rounding out the evening is the Ivan-da-Mar’ya Folk Dance Ensemble, founded in 2008 by choreographer Maria Levochkina at the Russian Community Center in Redmond in order to familiarize the greater Seattle area with Eastern European culture.

The group’s diverse repertoire consists of Russian, Moldavian, Ukrainian, Jewish, Gypsy, and Greek dances, performed by adults and children alike at folk festivals throughout the Seattle area, including the Northwest Folklife Festival, Crossroads International Folk Festival, and Redmond Lights, as well as at a Slavic Festival in Vancouver, B.C in summer 2010, and yearly “Victory Day” celebrations.

Director Maria Levochina has been studying choreography since the age of six, and attended the choreographic school “Vesna” under the guidance of Honored Artist of the USSR, Gassieva Elena Nikolaevna, from which she graduated from in 1990. She has been teaching choreography and dance since 2002.

Here is Ivan-da-Mar’ya performing at the 2013 Folklife Festival in Seattle: