Kim, from Euclid Ohio, has been dancing since the age of 5. She performed with the Duquesne University Tamburitzans for 4 years, and plays the violin and the brac. Kim likes any type of dancing, plays volleyball and tennis, and enjoys driving her new “Tigo” convertible. She has not seen but would like very much to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). Kim enjoys Zharava because of everyone’s sense of humor and everyone accepting her as part of the group, even though she is not Bulgarian. Kim’s favorite saying is Carpe Diem (“Seize the Day”), and she just got engaged during a trip to Colombia. Kim also enjoys being a Zumba instructor in her spare time.

Lazi is from Plovdiv. Her mother is a “pure” (koreniachka) Plovdivchanka and her father is from Manastir, a village in the Rhodopes which is the highest in altitude in Bulgaria (at about 1200 meters). She loves Zharava as it enlivens its members in tapping into and evolving Bulgarian tradition through creativity. For her, Zharava is not simply a group or a loose congregation of people, it is a phenomenon. It is a magnet for a new kind of expression, where transnational cultural identities meet what is uniquely Bulgarian, without compromising one or the other. She believes Bulgarians have a passion for life that is unparalleled. It is from this that their resilience and stoicism originates. Bulgarians distrust false authorities (including the state, the West, the East, etc.) that try to conform them. They are unruly and wild and defy simple definitions. Lazi believes these national traits can be channeled in the most constructive ways. She would have aspired to be a professional choreographer, if she had another lifetime at her disposal. Lazi is also a member of the Zharava executive committee.

Nevena is from Varna, the most beautiful city in Bulgaria. For her Zharava is a unique group of people, who are friends and family, dancers and performers. It has a contagious positive spirit and ambition. It brings its Bulgarian members closer to their beloved country and to their culture. It is a little home-away-from-home across the ocean that makes her feel at home, and makes the distance to friends and family back in Bulgaria more bearable. Nevena believes Bulgarians are warm and honest people, very spontaneous and genuine in their joy, hospitality and compassion. They are also very successful and ambitious, and their ability to preserve their core values and morale, while realizing their highest career goals, is admirable. Besides Zharava, she likes to spend time outdoors, hiking and camping, studying foreign languages and exploring other cultures through travel, literature, foreign films and music. She is very active in making sure everybody around her is fascinated with Bulgarian culture. After inviting her entire department at the IMF to attend the Festival of Cultures at the World Bank, in which some Zharava members took part, she taught her co-workers to dance Bulgarian horos and to speak basic Bulgarian words (and made everyone put up with the loud Bulgarian music coming from her office as well).

Rhodie grew up outside of NYC, and still considers herself a New Yorker. She loves being with Zharava, and is grateful to have been “adopted” by this wonderful Bulgarian community. She likes the positive energy, the opportunity to learn a different dance form, and to experience something of the Bulgarian culture.  Rhodie is a professional ballet dancer, and has performed in Europe and Asia as well as in the US. She currently teaches and coaches ballet full time. She has three gorgeous daughters who all live in NYC. When not dancing or teaching dance, Rhodie loves to be at the beach or out in nature. A favorite quote is “Never, never, never give up.” She loves seeing new places, meeting new people, and wants to see every little part of the world! Rhodie is also a member of the Zharava executive committee.

Thea‘s parents started taking her to international folk dancing groups when she was about 9 years old and she immediately fell in love with the Bulgarian dances that were taught there. Bulgarian music is so beautiful, varied and complex that its appeal is magical and addictive. For Thea, it is wonderful to be part of Zharava, not only because you get to learn great dances, but also because you can learn so much about the cultural context and styling of the different regions and folk traditions within Bulgaria through the teaching of Desi Jordanoff. Bulgaria is at a crossroad where Asia, Europe, and the Middle East have met for thousands of years, and the cultural collisions that have happened there are powerful, complex and fascinating. Besides Zharava, Thea dances swing and tango, and sings (beautifully) lots of different styles from medieval Flemish to Bulgarian folk music.

Tzvety Weiner was born and raised in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, in a family steeped in Bulgarian folk music. At the age of 5 Tzvety started taking classes in theory of music, solfege, and piano — all mandatory subjects for those who sought to become professional musicians. Later, Tzvety enrolled in folk singing classes in preparation for the famous Shiroka Luka folk music High school in Bulgaria. Around that time, communism collapsed in Eastern Europe and Tzvety faced choices that she never considered before. Instead of pursuing her predestined profession, she decided to take a break from music and became interested in computer science. In 1998, Tzvety moved to the US to complete a college degree in Computer Science. The love for Bulgarian music and performing in general was never left too far behind though. Luckily, a traditional Bulgarian band, Lyuti Chushki, was actively performing in the DC area and she joined the band as the lead vocalist. Since then, Tzvety has also performed with a Macedonian music band called Luk Na Glavata. In 2005, Tzvety and her husband, Bryndyn Weiner, decided to start a wedding style band. The Balkanics was born with Tzvety as the lead vocal. In late 2006, Tzvety alongside a handful of young Bulgarians, became one of the founding members of a dance group which grew into the only dance Bulgarian folk ensemble in the D.C. area – Zharava.

Tzvety has always loved dancing and if it wasn’t for her love for the Bulgarian song, she would probably be a dancer today. For her, Zharava provides more than just a dance practice though. For Tzvety dancing in the colorful line is a joy, a calling and a thrill that hardly anything else can replace. A great deal of things make our culture so different and out of reach for the Westerner. The odd rhythms, the temperament of each folk region carrying its own characteristics, the sadness of our songs and how it is conveyed in our dances, the connection between the people, the colorful language, the warmth that we each have in us passed down from the caring hand of our grandmothers, the complex melodies and beautiful ornaments, our one-of-a-kind cuisine, it’s all that the West is not.

Right now, Tzvety is a mother of a baby boy named Alek and taking time off all her extra curricular activities. Otherwise, she is a singer in 2 bands and 2 vocal groups. If Tzvety could say anything to the entire world it would be that there’s no point in killing each other. Let’s dance.

Youliana is from Sofia, Bulgaria. She came to the US in 1998 and graduated with BA from University of Georgia and MA from American University. She is currently working for the USG and lives in Alexandria, VA. Youliana enjoys dancing and learning about new cultures. She was aware of the idea of Zharava even before the group was formed, and was one of the first people who joined in January 2007. She joined because she loves Bulgarian folklore and likes to stay close to the Bulgarian community. What she likes most about being part of Zharava is the opportunity to share the beauty of Bulgarian folklore with others. She sees Bulgarian culture and folklore as very close to the earth because they stem from the people’s everyday lives and challenges. Everything in Bulgarian folk dance is somehow connected to the duties that the Bulgarian predecessors had: cooking, taking care of the family, growing food, etc. There is no superficiality to it, which makes it very real. Youliana also dances flamenco. Last year (2007) she went skydiving and loved it, so she will definitely repeat it this year too! If she had a chance to say something to the entire world, it would be to protect the Earth and all living creatures. This is the only home we have and it is sad what we have done to it.