I was invited and had the honor to be part of the 15th Anniversary Party of Time Out Weekly at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York City on June 20th as I was the first host of this program. Although this party is an annual event organized by Oleg Frish, this particular one was extra special since it was the 15th anniversary of this program. Time Out Weekly is an entertainment program for the Russian community. It is the longest running TV project on any ethnic television network showcasing American legends of song, movies and media.
The best way to understand the importance and longevity of this show is to realize that a lot of people who move to the United States, especially a couple decades ago would just go to an area of the city, say Brooklyn and stay in their own community. I’m not saying everyone does this but many Russians based on my experience and understanding tend to stay in their own neighborhoods, listen to their music, go to the Russian stores, talk to their families in Russian and some don’t even know English. So, this program that was created 15 years ago by Oleg as an entertainment program to help educate the Russian viewers about American culture by featuring legendary musicians and entertainers as well as giving the latest news. For example, the program might highlight what musicals are on Broadway right now.
The event was organized and took place at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation which is unheard of. I had never been inside before. It was amazing to be in the heart of NYC at the Russian Consulate. There were a lot of guests like the Russian General Consulate, celebrities who have been part of Time Out Weekly as well as other guests and sponsors of the party. I was invited there as I was the first host of that program that started everything for me and my career.
I had the opportunity to do an introduction and give a speech during the party. I talked about how I came to America and started hosting the show Time Out Weekly 15 years ago. That was my first job. Oleg had this idea for a show but wanted a younger host to bring in the audience and have an entertaining/educational vibe. So at 21 years old, just having moved to the country, I became the host and had amazing opportunities like going to meet Connie Francis in her house, hanging out with Whoopi Goldberg and talking to Oprah Winfrey. It was a great experience doing it and working with Oleg was very educational. I feel that whole experience served me so well as the past decade much of my life has been with American television. It was almost like going to school learning a lot and then taking all this knowledge and applying it to what I do now.
After talking about my experiences with the show, I spoke about my wife, Elena Samodanova, who many know was a judge on the Russian version of Dancing with the Stars and is a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance. Then I talked about our dance school, ProDance LA, that we run. There we train and raise our young talented kids who may one day become pros on Dancing with the Stars or world champion dancers. We do take training of these kids very seriously. It’s not just social dancing, we try to push kids to become better dancers.
At the end of my speech, I had the pleasure to introduce the kids from our dance studio who did a couple dances for everyone at the party. We had three couples performing; my daughter Olivia and her dance partner, another younger kid dance couple and and an older girl with her pro dance teacher for a ProAm performance. It was an amazing opportunity for the kids to not only be part of this special show but get to experience NYC. All of the kids had never been there before; some had never even traveled. Besides performing at this amazing event, they got to sightseeing and walk around the city. The kids never took a subway, so I took them from Brooklyn to the city on the subway. They were so excited. What we did was walked from one subway car to the other one while it was moving as you can open the doors and go in between parts of the train. It was like Pro Dance LA went out on a NYC adventure.
Being part of this event was a great honor and brought back memories. The Consulate is a little spot in America in NYC where I felt like I was actually in my country, Russia. Everything is done in a certain Russian way from the interior design with all the massive ceilings, gorgeous chandeliers and the walls covered in gold ornaments. Everyone is speaking Russian and eating Russian food. And then getting to meet the Consulate General of Russia was amazing. So, being in NYC and Russia at the same time was surreal. This brought back a lot of different memories and emotions especially having my daughter with me. When I moved to New York. I would walk those streets from uptown to downtown and back. I didn’t even have enough money to take a train. I was going for a lot of auditions for modeling and I’d have to walk everywhere. So being able to visit NYC with my wife and my daughter who is eight years old, triggered those emotions and memories. And now my daughter is doing a performance in the Russian Consulate for all these very important people. It was insane but beautiful.
For the kids this was a super fun trip. Even though you explain to them I don’t think they understand how important this experience is. But later, they will look back at it and realized what they did in NYC. We took a lot of pictures to capture those special moments as it was about making memories. Another really exciting memory and part of the trip took place the day before the show. I took them to Brooklyn Dance Center which is run by very good friends of ours Eugene Katsevman, Maria Manusova and Marat Gimaev.
Marat and I went to the university together in Russia, danced at the same studio and competed together in the late 90’s. He was already at that time a very well known dancer and Russian champion. Our Pro Dance LA students got to take lessons at the studio. And Marat gave my daughter a lesson. The crazy part of this experience was the picture I took of daughter and her partner with him and then sent it to my mom who was always familiar with Marat and his father who was a famous Russian hockey player. She used to watch them on TV. It made her feel back then that maybe her son would be something like that on TV. So when I sent her that picture, she cried as that was beautiful to see her granddaughter with him for lessons. It was very powerful for her to see what I have accomplished and sharing these experiences with my family.
This trip to NYC just brought back so many beautiful memories and created new memories for me and my family. Everything just came together from the kids dancing beautifully at the Russian Consulate to the great organization of the party as well as the kid’s having special lessons and experiencing NYC. I’m beyond proud and grateful for my family, students and being part of this special event for Time Out Weekly.