Russian wartime Cossack dance-off set to Run DMC

In this 1941 video, Russian soldiers are seen engaged in a precursor of the modern dance-off; to drive home the point, some wag has set the proceedings to Run DMC's "It's Like That," which is curiously fitting.

Cossack (or Hopak) dancing originated in southern Russian and Ukranian military communities. The general plan was to have a battle, win, then return and have a big dance off with all your comrades. The party was male-only, of course, and often involved pantomime style re-enactments of battlefield moments, with sabres et al.
Wartime Russian Cossack dancers (Thanks, Dunchead, via Submitterator!)


  1. This is wonderful. Even better,it mirrors the original video for this remix (from 1999?) which was also an extended dance battle sequence.

  2. I apologise, I sincerely apologise for the pedantry, but mentally it is really hard to get past “In this 1941 _video_”.

    Compare: ‘Fritz Lang’s 1927 video, “Metropolis”‘


  3. In 500 years this video will be in a museum archive somewhere labeled “Russian break dance battle, 20th century”

  4. Pretty amazing how many of the same mannerisms in the video are still in use, one or two guys going up the other group to show off their moves, the solo dances, etc.

  5. I know it’s nit-picking, but for myself, it’s hard to get over the fact that they’re dancing to something with a different tempo. If this person had adjusted the video’s framerate slightly, they probably could have matched it, but it just doesn’t jive for me…

  6. All I can think is that wow, those guys have got to be in amazing shape to do all of those lunges and squats. My thighs would kill me and all my leg tendons would snap if I tried any of that.

  7. Matt’s correct. And I’d rather listen to the original Run-DMC track, without all the House additives – which also differs enough in tempo that it might be a bit more in sync with what’s happening here!

  8. Cossack dancing was definitely an influence on breakin’.. which is why there’s a move called “the Russian” oh yeah and this video is teh awesome.

  9. To my untrained eye, the upper body moves and larger jumps look much like modern men’s ballet. Coincidence? Causative? Any dance historians in the house?

    1. While these guys are trained dancers and likely part of some sort of “morale” corps with the Red Army, the dance style itself originates with the equestrian traditions of the Ukrainian and Don Cossacks. Look at how much work they are doing with their quadriceps in the dip-and-leap moves and the low kicks. This would be very helpful in developing the kind of leg strength you would need to get up in your stirrups for extended periods of time. Especially useful for saber charges, or shooting from the saddle.

  10. These people are trained dancers. Untrained dancers like any other untrained activity can easily be spotted. The movement it well executed, full of intention. Timing is on the money and transitions are smoothly choreographed. All the movements are complementary. This is a staged performance. These are not the troops hanging out for the afternoon. Not to mention clean uniforms/costumes.

  11. I thought the video was fantastic, and then this comment made it even better:

    “Boba Fett Diop

    You just got served…Comrade!”

  12. Thanks for picking this up Mr Doctorow!

    Love dagfooyo’s comment! (‘In 500 years this video will be in a museum archive somewhere labeled “Russian break dance battle, 20th century”‘)

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