Star-studded is the night sky of Kenozero in late August, topping the village like a dome of a church. But Nastasya, a girl in Zekhnova, isn't sleeping. So many things happened on the Sunday before the night of 28-29 August.
Nastasya remembers how she got up at dawn, put on her best dress, and watched her father and his apprentices load barrels of salted fish on a cart... All people of Zekhnova are on their way to Vershinino – for the worship service and the bustling Assumption Fair, the biggest fair of the year.
Everyone has their own expectations of the fair. Nastasya's father hopes he makes enough of money to last him until next year, while Nastasya has something else on her mind. The morning service over, the villagers walk through the fairgrounds to the common table for a meal. They come and go until the end of the afternoon. In the evening young people from all over the area gather on the field for dancing, games, and dating. They will be dancing all night through! And then Nastasya thinks how autumn will bring a change, for many lads and lasses will be leaving for the capital, St. Petersburg, to work at brickyards and as nannies in rich people's homes. Tonight is their last chance to have fun together. Dancing is what Nastasya is most looking forward to.
She is the best dancer in Zekhnova. Lanz, vyun, krokhal, portyanka, kizh, obmanka are just a few of the dances the people in her village love to dance. But still, the people of Vershinino are better dancers. They know how to dance quadrille, introduced to them by travelers to Saint-Petersburg. The dance involves lads and lasses to form a circle and perform different figures as signaled by lead dancer. Nastasya saw them dance quadrille only once. She wishes she remembered the figures so she could dance with them.
Nastasya is lying in her bed, remembering how her father bought her two new combs at the fair, how they all had tea with pies, how the young people gathered in the field to knowing glances from old people. And then she spots a tall, well-built young man, his shirt white, boots shining, he's wearing a beautiful wrist watch. The girls start to whisper to one another, "It's Stepan... He fishes in Vershinino in the summertime and leaves for the brickyard every fall. What a handsome man he has become!"
Stepan happened to be a lead dancer to control quadrille. The lads and lasses start to dance to the merry sound of the accordion:
I stop cutting on the yard
When I hear the quadrille start.
My heart is calling you to come,
Without you my heart won't calm…
The dancing couples come together and disperse to the lyrics of the song and the signals from Stepan. Whenever he says "poussette", they start to go round in circle, lads somersaulting. The quadrille involves a multitude of figures – step, bind, classics, sides together, to name a few – the dancers spitting into pairs and forming sides again, some singing chastushkas as they dance. Nastasya counted as many as twenty-eight figures. Little did she know that even France, from where quadrille was brought to Russia, didn't have as many as that. Hearty dancers were the Kenozero people!