It’s the start of something new and things are chaotic in Kyiv. The first European Poker Tour event to be held in these parts is imminent, and the players, press and spectators have found their way to the cavernous Sporting Palace in the heart of the city. It’s a vast structure; home of the Eurovision Song Contest, countless huge concerts and now the biggest poker event in Ukraine.
But as is typical for an EPT, things don’t just begin without a fanfare. And Kyiv’s welcome was a spectacular as any we have ever seen.
In pitch darkness, a low rumble of drums and cymbals gave way to a cacophony of percussion; a furious assault of things being hit with sticks. There were drums of all imaginable sizes and sonority, the odd xylophone and, in a blast from any 9-year-old music student’s past, a güiro or two. Four stick-wielding men were charged with making the noise — and they delivered. Thanks to Ars Nova drummers for the most emphatic start to a show we’ve seen.
They then yielded the stage to something akin to an army of wedding cake decorations; the dancers of the Virkogo troupe.
At least 30 dancers in various states of frills, embroidery and ostentatious tailoring romped into sight, providing a frenetic blur of high-kicking, smiles, twirling, jerkins, lace, red leather boots, aprons, hats, mustard thigh-length jackets, green pantaloons, kneeling, scampering, leaping, crimson pants, floral headdresses and the odd flash of a frilly knicker. There was as much oompagh, and indeed loompagh, as one could possibly desire for a Tuesday lunchtime.
The fun lasted for close to half an hour, before the familiar sight and tones of Thomas Kremser commandeered the microphone. He introduced the new EPT tournament structure and told us we’d be playing seven one-hour levels today, with a 15 minute break between every two.
There was one last shudder on the cymbal and play began.
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