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'Since 1902 there was a daily 'butter' train, leaving Novosibirsk to Riga, Latvia, with 25 carriages, each loaded with 7 000 kg of butter'
The chronicles of Novosibirsk

Team UDI shows Siberia really has got talent

By Vera Salnitskaya
19 May 2015

Meet the shadow dance sensations on the brink of worldwide stardom and 19 million rouble cheque after taking British TV show by storm.

Tomsk-based Team UDI, from left to right: Yuri Bakin, Igor Andrikevich and Denis Vishnyak. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya

They are the Siberian shadow dance sensations that have gone from obscurity to the brink of global super-stardom.

Following a performance that left a theatre audience on its feet - and millions of TV viewers enthralled - Tomsk-based Team UDI have become the favourites to win the coveted Britain's Got Talent show.

And what a difference that could make to the troupe, which was formed almost 20 years ago by three lifelong friends Yuri Bakin, Igor Andrikevich and Denis Vishnyak.

At the moment they run a gymnastic school for about 500 under-privileged children, many of them orphans and some with disabilities. But they told the British audience they planned to build a 'big, big school' to replace the crumbling premises they currently rent in Tomsk if they are crowned 2015 champions.

Certainly, the £250,000 (19.7million roubles) prize money, and the associated fame, would transform the group and help change the lives of more youngsters in Siberia.

Britain's Got Talent


Britain's Got Talent


Britain's Got Talent


Britain's Got Talent


Britain's Got Talent

'We don’t know English and so we hardly spoke. It is very important to introduce yourself, so that people understand how you feel, but we just danced and made the whole audience stand up. The jury stood up too.' Pictures: Britain's Got Talent

'We dream about our own facility, and building our own building, which will have different styles of choreography,' says 34-year-old Igor. 'It was in 2005 that we officially opened the school. Now we’re renting a room of about 600 square metres. There's no repairs here and it’s patched up a little, with the walls draped with banners.

'We work with children from orphanages, and troubled families. We ourselves have gone through this and we know what it is like when you are deprived of attention, or when no one wants you.

'I was 10 years old when my father left the family. I don’t know where he is, or if he is alive. I was on the list of poor children and was helped with clothes, some of which were one size too big. At times I also had to keep an eye on my younger sister while my mother was working, and had to take her to kindergarten and pick her up again.

'So, I believe it’s our duty to give an opportunity to these children at our school.'

UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School

'I enjoy working with children from the disadvantaged families more, they have the desire to grow more than those who are brought to school in fancy cars.' Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Team UDI was formed in 1998 as the boys were growing up in Tomsk. Igor and Denis, an orphan, lived in the same apartment block. Denis studied at the time in a squalid school for underprivileged children, and met Yuri - whose family were desperately poor - there. The three shared common interests and started engaging in acrobatics, teaching themselves from 1990s music videos.

'They were such large tapes and needed to go inside a tape recorder,' laughs Igor. 'We had a dream that we had to have a TV and video recorder in a training room so that we didn’t have to run home to watch the videos. When you're running to the gym and back you forget what the dance has to look like.'

They say their hobby gave them a right of passage on the tough streets of Tomsk, particularly among the groups of unruly teenagers who would hang about.

'On the streets we were respected,' says Igor. 'You know, there was a 'mafia' on the streets in the 1990s. I remember you would go outside and be ready to empty out your pockets.

'But we were invited into the circle. Someone said, 'come here and do a somersault' and we did, and then gained their trust. The dances were so serious, so masculine, and almost kind of 'gangsta'-style. So we began to dance. We came to these groups out on the street and people would say, 'Look how cool they dance'.

'We then got asked to do performances and had to come up with a name for the group. Initially we came up with the name 'Blackout', but now that sounds ridiculous. Then we took the other name, just made of the first letters of our names.'

UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School

Many of the young gymnasts are orphans, like Denis, and others come from poorer families, like Igor, and are given their fees half-price. Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

It was in 2005 that the trio opened up their dance and gymnastic school, starting with a small room of 70 square metres, before moving into the larger space they use today.

Teaching skills to youngsters of all ages, it is clear they have a passion for what they do. During their interview on Britain's Got Talent, they told the TV audience they ran their UDI Dance School to give under-privileged children 'a sense of belonging'.

Many of the young gymnasts are orphans, like Denis, and others come from poorer families, like Igor, and are given their fees half-price.

Some also have disabilities, such as deafness or have problems with their limbs, with a doctor in the school giving them a medical check before they start their training.

'I enjoy working with children from the disadvantaged families more,' says 33-year-old Yuri, who has a son and daughter of his own. 'They have the desire to grow more than those who are brought to school in fancy cars and then sit there and do not know why they are there. Children from disadvantaged families have a goal.'

Igor continues: 'The three of us are always present in the school to help motivate the children. But we also have a coaching staff, and we fully trust them and they train the children, and have been achieving great results.'

UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School

UDI Dance School

UDI Dance School


UDI Dance School

'The three of us are always present in the school to help motivate the children. But we also have a coaching staff, and we fully trust them and they train the children, and have been achieving great results.' Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

The first step into the limelight for the group came in Moscow with a performance on the popular Russian TV show Minute of Glory, with them finishing in second-place. After that they took part in Ukraine’s Got Talent and reached the semi-final stage, but they decided to pull out of the contest during the tense political situation.

Then came that potentially life-changing appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, in front of a live theatre audience and judging panel that included the influential Simon Cowell.

Their initial audition video was submitted at the end of last year, having been recorded in Tomsk, before they flew to London to shoot at the Dominion Theatre on February 14.

Igor says: 'This contest was a new stage for us. It’s at an international level, because the show is watched across the world, not just in the UK but in the US and all across Europe.'

The journey from Russia was difficult, not least because of an exchange rate that made a Pound worth 150 roubles. The friends had to enlist other former members of Dance School - their junior school - to make up their numbers, with the airfares alone costing 350,000 roubles.

Nikolay Mitkin, 21, Dmitry Titov, 20, Vladimir Lee, 22, Vladimir Sarafan, 18, and 19-year-old Andrey Bakhtin also made the trip, having been at the school about six years ago.

UDI and UDI Junior


UDI Junior

Nikolay Mitkin, 21, Dmitry Titov, 20, Vladimir Lee, 22, Vladimir Sarafan, 18, and 19-year-old Andrey Bakhtin also made the trip, having been at the school about six years ago. Picture: Vera Salnitskaya, Olga Tsygankova

Then there was the issue with the language barrier in London. 'No one was there to meet us, and we just had an address and a time to go there,' recalls Igor. We asked directions to the street in broken English, but we made it – we didn't perish!

'We don’t know English and so we hardly spoke. It is very important to introduce yourself, so that people understand how you feel, but we just danced and made the whole audience stand up. The jury stood up too.'

Yuri adds: 'I arrived in London and did not know anything except 'thank you'. I went up to local people and said 'excuse me' and showed them a map, and pointed with my finger.

'They understood and everyone kept calling me 'sir' so I also picked it up and started saying 'excuse me, sir'. It was fun, I liked it. At 8 am we went on to see the sights and came back late at night.'

The friends say that while they want to distance themselves from politics, they are all passionate about Russia, and Siberia in particular.

Igor says: 'We have creativity and we have something to show people; something good and bright. But we are Russians and we love our country. We stand for the Russian Federation, for Western Siberia, and for Tomsk.'

It has been a long two decades for the dancers to gain the recognition they deserve, and they say that it has been their solid friendship that has carried them through.

'We have been there for 20 years, side-by-side,' says Igor. 'I will not say that we do not argue, but first and foremost we are like a family.

'Yes, we argue, shout, and hate each other at times and go home after rehearsal, all angry. But then we come back closer. That’s how we live, with respect, tolerance, and understanding. Nothing more strengthens us.'

Igor Andrikevich


Yury Bakin


UDI all together

'We have been there for 20 years, side-by-side. I will not say that we do not argue, but first and foremost we are like a family.' Pictures: Vera Salnitskaya

Bookmakers the UK make Team UDI joint 7/2 favourites to win Britain’s Got Talent. But what do the friends think about their chances of picking up the £250,000 cheque and performing in front of the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance later this year?

'We try to turn off the topic of fame, and not pay attention to it,' confesses Igor. 'It can get confusing, and make you not concentrate so we try to suppress it.

'In any case fame usually is only for today, not for tomorrow. That's life. Today, you go by bus, but tomorrow you're going in a limousine, and vice versa.

'Still if you believe in success it will come, but if you believe in failure it is bound to be a failure. It all depends on what's in your head.'

Team UDI will learn next weekend if they will make the live televised semi-final of Britain's Got Talent, which airs in the UK from May 25.

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Comments (7)

So entertaining and magical! An indescribable something that fascinates, beckons, and mesmerizes the children. The attention they appear to receive seems to light them up. And putting in the hard work, training and commitment to achieve that which they see is probably as good an education as regular school! What a gift these men have and share! Somebody who knows how should set up a GoFundMe account online! Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing to see a chain of such schools for neglected or deprived children in countries round the world?!
Cindy, North Carolina, USA
11/03/2017 07:23
0
0
Is there any way one can get in contact with them? Do they have a fond or something there one can help economiclly. No matter how well it will go on BGT. Best regards
Leyla Nunez, Skepplanda, Sweden!
02/06/2015 00:16
6
1
Have watched this over and over. I not only appreciate the tremendous artistry and hard work you've displayed but the heart for the displaced of society. I am a christian minister who has spent most of his life as a performing artist doing mime and dance all my adult life and teaching this to others. I know the degree of work you had to invest not only in the art but in the hearts of these children. God bless you!!
Frank Borst, Brentwood Tennessee USA
27/05/2015 10:32
4
1
Thank you for this article on these amazing dancers and athletes. Outstanding performance. I hope they win!
Denise, North Carolina, USA
25/05/2015 21:21
1
0
Thank you, Siberian Times, for doing this great report on your great Siberian talent "UDI"...I wish them every success in their endeavor to win, not only for themselves but for the wonderful children they teach dance to. Now may they win the lot & can I be an extra judge just for this once & be the reason they have not just 4 humongous yeses, but 5 humongous Yeses.
Jaker, Dundalk
21/05/2015 09:58
5
0
Greatest luck team UDI with everything you do. You won my heart, no matter the result of the show. You are fantastic, all of you. Thank you
May, China
20/05/2015 11:03
6
0
Wishing you all the best and great success , Not only are you all very talented but also very generous with your time in teaching orphan children how to dance , I'm also an ex-orphan kid who in Australia was not even allowed to play. let alone dance . I have my fingers crossed for you and I know no matter what happens you will do your Siberian City of Universities "Tomsk" proud , Good Luck , Patrick .
Patrick Travers , Perth West Aust
20/05/2015 00:15
9
0
1

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