Elena grew up in Smolyan, a town nestled in the evergreen hills of the Rhodope mountains in southern Bulgaria. She has been captivated by the Bulgarian folklore music and rhythms ever since she was little. Perhaps the overwhelming power of 100 bagpipes (kaba gaidi) echoing in the mountains can be the best explanation why. She was introduced to folk dancing in elementary school. Through Zharava, she is able to share the richness of the Bulgarian dance traditions with others. Elena is currently working on her Ph.D. degree in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is happiest when she is with friends and family, hiking in the mountains, skiing, dancing, strolling the streets of cities around the world, learning foreign languages and expressing herself in creative ways. Elena is also a member of the Zharava executive committee.


Ina was born “in the Metro 2 system of the Soviet Union and raised under the base of Stalin’s futurist monument.” (Varna, Bulgaria) Besides the name of Zharava, she likes “jumping around in an orderly fashion” to traditional Bulgarian music. She enjoys long walks on the beach, brown-eyed boys, music, picnics, white rice, and card games. (For more information please call to schedule a date as appropriate) She would very much like to say to the world that it’s not as round as it thinks. Ina firmly believes that “Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.”


Tania is from Yambol, Bulgaria and moved to the United States in 2000. She grew up with folklore dancing, and is extremely happy that there is such a unique group as Zharava. Zharava is like a little piece of Bulgaria in the middle of the US capital. Tania loves the energy and the enthusiasm everybody shares about Bulgarian folklore dancing. She loves any outdoors activities, like biking, camping, whitewater rafting, etc. These days she is busy with school though, since she “was crazy enough to leave her secure accounting job and decided to follow her passion and be an Interior Designer.” However, there is always time for partying, hanging out with friends, and good wine. Tania would love to visit the pyramids – something about them is so mystical and amazing. You might be surprised to hear this, but Tania doesn’t have a high school diploma, but somehow managed to slip through the cracks and graduate from the University of Virginia as well as to get her CPA (but don’t tell anyone).


What drew Veni to Zharava were the strength of Bulgarian traditions and Nadia (see above). Besides Zharava, he likes poker, fishing and the ladies. He likes the saying “Dinosaurs went extinct. How do you think people will end up?” He admires Khan Asparukh, and, while others may find this surprising, he likes explosions (or comparable big bangs).

Milena Gligić

  • I am Milena Gligić from Belgrade, Serbia. I am a pianist. I currently work for LA Opera, I play with a new music group in NYC called Contemporaneous and I am finishing my doctoral degree at University of Maryland. I love singing, dancing and walking in nature. I adore birds and I’m addicted to chocolate. I am and aunt to two adorable nephews back in Serbia and I miss them tremendously!
  • I joined Zharava in December 2014 because I was looking for a Balkan folk dance group in DC area that was more than just recreation. I instantly recognized Desi’s strong passion and commitment and realized that Zharava is a perfect match. The people in the group I met along the way made my life so much brighter and became very dear friends. I am so grateful for Zharava welcoming me into the family!
  • My biggest dream is to sing and dance and create a community that will spread the love around the world through their passion for music. I have no other future plans but that. No matter where I am, I will continue doing what I do and promote Balkan culture in the world through the spirit of Zharava people!

Mitko Gerensky

  • Name: Dimiter “Mitko” Gerensky
  • Where are you from?: Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.
  • Tell us something funny/unusual/interesting about yourself: I am a beekeeper, a songwriter, and a few other things.
  • Tell us how long you have been with Zharava, and what motivated and inspired you to join the group: A few years ago I sampled a zumba class. At the end, the instructor asked us each to extend a pinky to allow the person next to us to hold it and form a dancing circle. It felt super sterilized… That same evening, I attended a Bulgarian reunion where people of all generations, women and men, old and young, Bulgarian and not, danced passionately together. It felt so unifying and uplifting that I thought to myself… I want more of this! Besides, I have always wanted to learn more than the standard ‘pravo horo’ danced at most Bulgarian weddings…
  • What is your biggest passion or dream? As far as Zharava goes, I would love to instill in my two daughters an appreciation for the timeless beauty of Bulgarian folk music and dance. I am delighted that recently, my 13 years old daughter started attending Zharava’s Bulgarian folk dance lessons with me!
  • Share your favorite joke/saying/quote! “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” ~ Baha’u’llah
  • What are your plans for the future and if you are given the opportunity to dance will you continue spreading the beauty of the Bulgarian folk dance no matter what point on the planet you end up living? I can envision a Bulgarian folk dance party upon landing on Mars… But seriously, every community on this beautiful planet could benefit from the camaraderie engendered during the rhythmic Bulgarian folk dances.


Zlati is from Sofia, Bulgaria. For her, being a member of Zharava means being a part of something unique and beautiful, which helps her keep in touch with Bulgaria. Her favorite quote comes from Terry Pratchett: “Give a man a fire and he’s warm for the day. But set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.”

  • Name: Zlati
  • Where are you from? Sofia
  • Tell us how long you have been with Zharava, and what motivated and inspired you to join the group: I have been with the group for almost ten years. I joined looking for a way to reconnect with and learn more about Bulgarian culture. I stayed because I discovered a community, made great friends and had the opportunity to promote and perpetuate the uniqueness, beauty and variety that is Bulgarian folklore.
  • What are your plans for the future and if you are given the opportunity to dance will you continue spreading the beauty of the Bulgarian folk dance no matter what point on the planet you end up living?
    I plan to dance until I can dance no more; after that, I’ll sit in the audience and cheer on. The energy and happiness that our little crew generates is an addiction I never want to give up.

Kelly Zug

  • My name is Kelly Zug.
  • I am from Haverford, Pennsylvania.
  • During my years in high school, my family hosted a student from Ruse, Bulgaria who is still my best friend. In 2013 – 2014, I taught at a language school in Vratsa with the Fulbright Program. I really enjoyed my year exploring Bulgaria and loved learning some traditional dances from my students – this is why I am so fond of Zharava.
  • Something interesting about myself? I love chocolate covered strawberries, biking around D.C., and board games.

Bobby Dimitrov

  • Name: Bobby Dimitrov
  • Where are you from? Ruse, Bulgaria
  • Tell us something funny/unusual/interesting about yourself: I joined Zharava in a very critical moment of my immigrant life, I found friends and a reason/motivation to stay in USA. Used to dance Bulgarian Folk Dances back in my home town for 13 years
  • Tell us how long you have been with Zharava, and what motivated and inspired you to join the group: Since autumn 2013. I needed a social environment and interaction with what turned to be really great people.
  • What is your biggest passion or dream? : Bulgarian folk dances,salsa, yoga.
  • Share your favorite joke/saying/quote! : There is a will, there is a way!
  • What are your plans for the future and if you are given the opportunity to dance will you continue spreading the beauty of the Bulgarian folk dance no matter what point on the planet you end up living? : I will try to spend more time in the dance practices of Zharava. I really like the after practice routine for socializing at Agora bar. Sure, absolutely i would spread the Bulgarian spirit everywhere i go!

Todor Hinov

  • Name: Todor H. Hinov
  • Where are you from? Sofia, Bulgaria
  • I first signed up to dance Bulgarian folk dances in 4th grade. I danced with the same group, same choreographer and same people until I graduated from high school. My last performance with the group was at the inaugural ceremony for the opening of the Plovdiv Agricultural College, where I enrolled in its first class.
  • I joined Zharava in September of 2011.
  • The love for my family is my biggest passion.
  • I love dancing! I love the Zharava group and its members! I would love to continue dancing so long as the group continues meeting, dancing, jamming and performing!