Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Moonshine and Ballet Stars

Last weekend, a couple of friends and I were oscillating between dinner options when we were invited to a Russian’s apartment for an informal gathering. Our host for the evening was the co-worker of one of my American friends, but it turned out he is an accomplished moonshine maker as well. As soon as we’d taken off our boots, he handed us shot glasses and invited us to try his samogon.

My friend’s boss jumped in with heavily accented encouragement. “Bottoms up! Or is it ‘up your bottoms?’ Either way, drink!”

In the kitchen, the men were slicing up slabs of meat and heating up a pot of broth for Japanese shabu-shabu. Introductions were made, but the generic Russian names quickly ran together and all I retained was that the guys were affiliated with the Bolshoi Ballet in some form or another. One of them looked familiar though, and it only took a few moments of staring to figure out why—he was Spartacus.

As my most dedicated of blog followers might remember, the first ballet I saw at the Bolshoi was “Spartak.” Molly and I were so enamored of the male soloist that we made a point of seeing him in his other leading roles. So when I found myself sitting next to him as we squeezed around the table for dinner, I was more than a little star struck. And once I’d had a few more shots of moonshine, it was inevitable that I was going to have to tell him that. In Russian.

“I think I’ve seen you dance at the Bolshoi. You were Spartacus, right?”

“Maybe,” Spartak responded, seemingly more interested in his Instagram feed than his number one fan. He held up a picture of himself in costume. “Was this the show you saw?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said casually.

This was a lie. I knew so. I also knew I had seen him as Ivan the Terrible last February, and that I made a not-so-subtle mention here about how well he filled out his tights. But luckily, I hadn’t had enough samogon to tell him that. A few more rounds of moonshine later, Spartak mentioned that he’d be playing the eponymous role in the upcoming premiere of “Gamlet.”

Me: So are you going to hook me up with tickets?
Spartak: I have to get everyone tickets—my wife, my parents, my wife’s parents…
Me: And your new American friend?

Sadly the in-laws still take priority over “new American friend.” But at least I got to tell Molly about the night I drank moonshine with Spartacus. Complete with a half dozen awkward photos.

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