On March 11, 2015, Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW) traveled to Puerto Rico for Encuentro de Culturas 2015. The idea to create the festival was spearheaded by native Puerto Rican and MBAW Board Member, Dr. Awilda Ramos. About a year ago, Dr. Ramos sat down with Artistic Director, Dr. Anya Grokhovski with a dream of creating a cultural exchange festival with Puerto Rico and together, they made it a reality.

Led by Dr. Ramos and Dr. Grokhovski, MBAW’s support team consisted of staff members Executive Assistant Diana Tatu and Vanessa Sanchez along with contractors James Sanders and Clemence Le Saux. Dr. Grokhovski created a spectacular line up of world renowned Russian and Ukrainian musicians including Barynya from New York, the Flying Balalaika Brothers from Austin, and Duo Aleanya from San Antonio. Dr. Ramos coordinated an energetic collaboration with dance company Gibaro de Puerto Rico who participated in 4 out of 5 concerts of the festival.

The Russian music, dance and song ensemble—Barynya—showcased popular Russian and Gypsy dances through their fiery footwork and bright costumes. Russian folk group—Flying Balalaika Brothers—showcased Russian folk music at its best; through a compilation of traditional songs and world music sprinkled with the glitter of Russian fairy tales. Russian piano duo—Duo Aleanya—dazzled the audience with their beauty and talent alike as they played a brilliant program of Brahms and Rachmaninoff. Puerto Rican dance company—Gibaro De Puerto Rico—attracted a huge audiences with their national and international exposure in recent years. They performed a variety of traditional dances, and were a major hit!

On 12 March 2015, the Flying Balalaika Brothers visited one school in Auguadilla, Puerto Rico, sharing Russian culture and music with the students during their visit. Later that evening, all performers and MBAW’s team attended a special art opening by famous Puerto Rican artist Antonio Carrión Torruellas at Auguadilla City Hall. The Flying Balalaika Brothers and Barynya entertained guests during the opening and Mayor Carlos Méndez Martínez thanked Dr. Ramos and Musical Bridges for bringing the festival to his beautiful city.

On 13 March 2015, Barynya, Gibaro de Puerto Rico and the Flying Balalaika Brothers dazzled the city of Auguadilla with a sunset performance outside on the city plaza. Over a thousand people made their way to the city square for the performance and danced and sang along with the show. The show concluded with a beautiful, colorful collaboration as all performers joined together with casual dancing and laughter!

On 14-15 March 2015, the Russian Festival left Auguadilla and headed to San Juan for a performance at the beautiful Teatro Tapia; located in the heart of the city.  Attendees included special guest and Honorable Consul of the Russian Federation, Anastasia Kitsul. Performers included Barynya, the Flying Balalaika Brothers, Duo Aleanya and Gibaro de Puerto Rico. Both concerts were a huge success with a large audience in attendance.

On 16 March 2015, the team headed by means of a charter bus to the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey. The musicians were greeted with an extremely warm welcome at the Teatro Ramon Ferde. After the show, the stage filled with audience members taking pictures and waiting to talk to the musicians. They were so touched to have this festival in their city.

Muscial Bridges Around the World would like to thank the following sponsors for making the festival possible: Aguadilla Mall, Aguadilla City, Cayey, Gibaro de Puerto Rico, Mini Warehouse, City of San Juan, and Universidad de Puerto Rico en Cayey. We would also like to thank Dr. Ramos and all of the countless volunteers who extended such immeasurable hospitality during the festival!