In Balkan Dance, I feel the strong root of ancestry rising up from the Earth to my feet, to my heart, and throughout my tribe. The rhythms of my homeland transmit the lore and legend of the Balkan soul ? the cycles of the Earth, bygone eras and the cultural panorama at the crossroads of East and West.
Growing up in a folkloric family brought intimacy with music and dance in the blood. My grandfather clapped out many a rhythm with us, as we learned the evocative Balkan repertory. He was m ygreatest teacher, who stressed the unity of cultures and rhythms and showed us how to celebrate our heritage through dance.
22 years in Chicago immersed me in a vibrant inter-Balkan immigrant culture. From Greek church picnics to Bulgarian Christmas parties to Serbian weddings,we danced and danced our immigrant community dances and reveled in thei richness. When my parents organized theU.S. tour of Esma Redzepova in the 80?s, I fell in love with the Balkan Gypsy through her. Songs like ?ChajeShukarije? and ?Kalesh Bre Andjo? will always invoke the magic of Macedonia?s Gypsy Queen for me, as well as inspiring some of my favorite dances.
When I returned to Macedonia in 2007, I met the great folkloric dance and music teacher Milo Destanovksi, with whom I founded the Ethno-Square Festival, a celebration of Balkan and Romani music and dance. Its 2015 edition welcomed over 18,000 attendees and was honored to feature the performance of the Queen herself, Esma Redzepova. To learn more about how to participate in Ethno-Square, click here.
With the joyous uprising of Balkan music on the World Music scene, the time is ever more ripe for Balkan dances -traditional and fusion ? to join the party. One of my favorite recent projects has been dancing with Orkestra Bandida ? Brazil?s champion Balkan-Ottoman band. With a collection of Coceks, Karsilamas, and Gypsy favorites, our multi-instrumentalists provide the sonic backdrop for lots of dance and celebration.