Crossing cultural divides: from Sumo to Riverdance

Pastimes famous for coming from abroad are becoming increasingly popular among Russians.

When we think of sumo, we imagine Japan and giant wrestlers. Yet, one can now find sumo lessons in Moscow. What is even more surprising, there are girls competing, too, like Lena Shytikova, a four time European Junior champion, aged 15. She is so good that she routinely trains with the boys.

Sumo stomped into Russia in the 1990s, and is very likely to flourish into the future. Especially considering how well Russian wrestlers do in international competitions, coming second after Japan in the medal table at the World Championships earlier this month. No wonder, then, that the sport’s popularity is growing.

One does not have to weigh 100 kilos, as there also exists amateur sumo, which allows any boy or girl to start training, says Oleg Komarov, head coach of the Moscow Sumo federation.

The most important thing is the will to fight. If you have it, it’s a sport open to anyone,” Komarov said.

More and more Russians are falling in love with sports and hobbies coming from faraway lands and until recently unknown here – like Irish step dancing.

RT visited “Iridan”, Russia’s first and oldest school of traditional Irish dancing, founded 10 years ago. Its dancers regularly perform in Moscow and take part in competitions across Europe.

It’s the rhythm, the energy – when you have many people doing all these moves together, it’s a unique feeling,” as school students describe their impressions of the Celtic dances.

The quick, precise leg movements, dancing in soft and hard shoes – it is all there. Irish dance schools have now sprung up all over the country, with dancers eager to spend hours perfecting their skills.

Wherever foreigners in Moscow may be from, they may find traditions from their home country flourishing here. And whether it is wresting or dancing, Russians may have a lot in stock to surprise.

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