Dance and Music at Colony Ross

Dance and Music at Colony Ross

Adding music and dance to your ELP program brings a wonderful element of culture and fun to the ELP experience! Although some groups show initial resistance to dancing, most students really enjoy it once they get going. We encourage you to bring musical instruments for your Company members to play and enliven your program, when possible. The Troika is the standard ELP dance done during the onsite program. Instructions for the Troika are provided below, along with other songs and dances you may wish to learn and incorporate into your ELP.


Please note Fort Ross provides music for the Troika dance only. However, whenever possible, we encourage your Company to provide your own music for the Troika — and any other music and dances that you may wish to do in class and during your onsite program.

Troika – The ELP dance standard

  • Starting position – Sets of three facing counterclockwise in a circle: e.g. sets of three arranged like the spokes of a wheel. All hands joined at shoulder height.
  • Starting with the right foot, take 8 straight-legged running steps forward.
  • Repeat with 8 running steps backward.
  • Retain joined hands. The right-hand person runs in front of the center person and through the arch made by the center and left hand person. The center person follows the right hand person, unwinding and all get back to their original positions. The left-hand person runs in place during this movement.
  • Repeat the above movement, this time with the left-hand person going through the arch formed by the center and right hand persons.
  • Join all hands together in circles of three dancers. Circle left with 12 running (or grapevine) steps. On measure 12, finish up with three steps in place.
  • Repeat running circle in the other direction. Instead of finishing with three steps, break circle between the left-hand and right hand person. Center person runs forward to join 2 new partners.
  • Repeat dance steps from the beginning until the song ends

Links to help learn the Troika –

Troika 1

Troika 2

iTunes Music

Kids dancing the Troika at Fort Ross

Korobushka –

  • Starting position – Double circle, men’s back to center, holding both hands (on hand hold, interlock tips of fingers with man’s palms up)
  • Starting on man’s left (man going forward) and lady’s right (lady going backward), take one schottische step (Man – LRL Hop    Lady – RLR Hop) away from center of circle
  • Reverse direction, moving towards the center of circle. Repeat schottische step (Man – LRL Hop    Lady – RLR Hop)
  • Repeat beginning, with a schottische step moving away from center of the circle.
  • Conclude with a Hungarian Bokazni step (Hop with feet crossed – count l, Hop with feet apart – count 2, Hop with feet together – count 3)
  • Face partner. Make 3-step turn to right, clapping on count 3. Make 3-step turn back to left, clapping on count 3
  • Partners face and join right hands, shoulder high. Balance forward on right foot (towards partner). Balance back on left foot (away from partner)
  • Retaining right-hand hold, man turns woman under his right arm and they exchange places.In opposite place, repeat section above, returning to original position
  • Start dance again from beginning

Kalinka – This old Russian song may have been danced and sung on social occasions at Fort Ross such as the birthday celebration for Elena Rotcheva, wife of the last Russian Commandant. In true Slavic tradition, the tempo of the chorus begins slowly and gradually accelerates.

  • Starting position – Dancers stand side by side, facing in opposite directions
  • Each reaches across front of partner and places hand on partner’s waist
  • The girl carries a scarf in her raised free hand
  • The boy keeps his free hand raised also
  • As the tempo of the chorus begins slowly and becomes faster and faster, the dancers twirl in time to the music

Flute Tune – A simple song, sung with just one syllable, Da.  The following story is associated with it: “This is the Coyote song.  The Coyote was the best flute player. Coyote sang da, da, da, da, while the rest of the people said sh! Sh! Shoo oo, oo, oo, so the Coyote was the best singer because the others got tired”.

Beryozonka (The Birch Tree) – One of Russia’s oldest and most beloved folk songs and is a song which the Russian settlers at Fort Ross would have known and sung. Tchaikovsky used the melody, with some alterations, in the Finale of his Fourth Symphony. This song may be sung as a three part canon (round).

Sixteen Sea Otters


By Bill Singer & sung with his class in 2008 for State Park Director Ruth Coleman

Sung to the tune of ‘I owe my soul to the Company Store’

Em C B7  The Hunters sing this part

I was huntin’ otters at old Fort Ross,

Em C B7

I got 16 pelts that I gave to my boss, (he said)

Em Am

“That’s not enough—I need 23”

Em B7 Em

I got back in my kayak and I went out to sea.

Em C B7 Entire class

Chorus: You catch sixteen otters an’ whaddya get?

Em C B7

Another day older an’ deeper in debt

Em Am

Saint Peter doncha call me ’cause I can’t go

Em B7 Em  the Militia sings this part

I owe my soul to the company store

I’m in the militia and it aint no fun,

I march all day with a heavy gun,

I gotta practice ‘cause it aint no sport,

It’s my job to protect the fort.

All sing the chorus

The cooks sing this part

Look here son, I don’t mean to be rude,

But I’m the person that cooks your food,

So you better just stay outta my way,

Or you’re not going to eat today.

All sing the chorus

The hunters sing this part

Just call on us if you need anything built,

From a sailing ship to a new sword hilt,

We’re the artisans, so have no doubt,

If it can be made, we’ll figure it out.

Russian music at Fort Ross – It is believed that the men at Fort Ross knew the songs Kalinka, and Beryozonka and longed for the melancholy melodies of their Motherland.  Certainly these very popular tunes might have been sung at Fort Ross.

Native Californian music at Fort Ross – The artistic skill of the Native Californians is recognized to be of high order.  Music was an integral part of the lives of the Native Californians. Voices were raised at ceremonial dances, at work and around campfires at night.  The music was enhanced by flutes of an elder, whistles, panpipes and flageolets of bone. There were also rattles of turtle shells, deer hoofs, split sticks, seashells, gourds and dried cocoons.


What about the Alaska Natives? Click here for Hunters songs…