The disco lights are spinning. The crowd is on their feet and clapping to the pulsing beat of Celine Dion’s “I’m alive!” and grandma Polina Vockoboynik—with the help of her backup grandma dancers—is executing her ribbon dance routine with panache.
Her audience is a boisterous crowd of families: more than 300 children, grandchildren, and friends of 12 competing grandmas hailing from all stretches of the former Soviet empire. But there are three people Vockoboynik must impress the most—three grandpas squeezed behind one table strewn with voting ballots and an array of Russian appetizers known as zakuski, mulling her score.
It’s the 17th annual Your Highness Grandmother Pageant, and it feels as if all of Brighton Beach–the beating heart