White Nights

Its a phenomenon of the Northern Hemisphere's Summer, where the sun hardly sets or rises, but lingers its light to allow all-night revelry and insomnia. I experienced it when I went to St. Petersburg during the Spring and Summer of 1997. And I just had a short experience of it again by watching "White Nights" with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines.

Most films about Russia in the 1980s were steeped in politics and this film was no exception. But the location shoots of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and the dance scenes between Hines and Baryshnikov were special. Of Leningrad, because it captures life at the end of perestroika and glastnost, which made the KGB cloak and dagger stuff kind of over the top.

But for having gone there just two months ago with American Councils for International Education (two very longs months now that school is almost over), I've seen how much has changed. While there's a political glass ceiling for anyone not in the United Russia party, there is relative freedom for artistic expression. I was so impressed with the community support of the arts of any kind: dance, embroidery, photography, and painting. Any child could have access to it and express themselves. My students are fortunate to have classes other than English, Math, and Physical Education! As I work to teach my little niche in the US system, I can't help but wonder how our school community could be different if all the pencil tapping boys could have an outlet it. How all the kids that can't get enough attention talking in class could express themselves through song for 50 minutes long.

Thanks for that trip back White Nights. I'll continue to seek out Russian connections as the reality and urgency of my teaching situation tries to keep me from living in many directions at once.

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