“Zharava” Bulgarian Folk-Dance Ensemble at the Russian Fall Bazaar

There are few things that can transport me as instantaneously and fluently across time and space back into my childhood as Bulgarian folk music. Bulgarian folk dances are a unique, beautiful, fun, exhilarating art that as any Bulgarian I was always aware of but I never practiced beyond the basic line dance (pravo horo) you always see at Bulgarian weddings and celebrations. Not that I did not have exposure to it. My eldest cousin is a brilliant choreographer into whose dance ensemble classes I would sneak as a high schooler during my rock band rehearsal breaks in order to glance at the beautiful dancers. My home town is the host of one of the most remarkable Bulgarian folk ensembles, Pirin. But I never felt I was a dancer as I always tended to focus on music when it came to artistic pursuits. Until now…

Prompted by my friend Boyan, I decided to join “Zharava”, the Bulgarian folk ensemble in Washington, DC lead by the talented Desi Jordanoff. What a pure joy it was for me to start learning paidushko horo and to finally put to use those latent Bulgarian instincts about music, rhythm and movement! An hour of intense Bulgarian dance was enough of a workout for me and I could not stop but smile as I sat and observed the more advanced dancers prepare for their performance in the upcoming Russian Fall Bazaar. At that moment I had an epiphany that the Zharava dancers will be my subject for the photography class project which I am to complete by the end of the fall semester.

“Zharava” Bulgarian Folk-Dance Ensemble

The Bulgarian folk-dance ensemble Zharava was established in January, 2007. Within its first six months, the group gathered more than 20 enthusiastic members, including natives of Bulgaria, Russia and the U.S. The fire in each member’s heart is implied by the group’s name: Zharava – ‘burning embers.’ The group carries this energy into all its performances and workshops.

Zharava’s mission is to preserve the rich Bulgarian folk-dance tradition, and to enhance the awareness of Bulgarian folk arts (including dance, music, song and rhythm) throughout the U.S. and the world. The Artistic Director of Zharava is a longtime professional folk dance instructor and choreographer, Desi Jordanoff. The organization aims to advance its mission through performance and participation in dance and music festivals, through delivering training and workshops, through organizing student performances, and through holding recreational dance events. With all these activities, Zharava tries to educate people and create community through the experience of Bulgarian folklore. Zharava workshops include selections from the rich dance styles belonging to all ethnographically defined regions of Bulgaria.

Zharava at the Russian Fall Bazaar

“Zharava” performing at the Russian Fall Bazaar

“Zharava” at the Russian Fall Bazaar

On Saturday I biked to the Russian Orthodox Church on Massachusetts Avenue to document the dancers’ preparation and their actual performance. The flying colors can give but a hint of the immense energy and passion “Zharava” showcased and the joy its audience experienced! Head over to my “Zharava” Flicker set to see the passion of Bulgarian folk-dance captured on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Washington, DC!

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