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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.' 

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.

Today, Zharava already has gathered 85 members and continues to attract more new students. 55 members are actively participating in the ensemble’s training classes and their number grows consistently. All current members are organized in three tiers: beginners, intermediate and advanced (performing group). All three groups have been exposed to different levels of difficulty and follow three specific tracks of training to learn the particular dance styles, techniques, and rhythms of individual ethnographic regions of Bulgaria. Zharava’s advanced group consists of a strong core of dancers, who have advanced through vigorous training during the past seven years. These core dancers form the ensembles performing group, which demonstrates the color, rhythm and dance mastery to the community. Part of Zharava’s training incorporates traditional dances from all ethnographic regions of Bulgaria. The curriculum also includes studying authentic folk traditions brought from villages in Bulgaria and workshops in costume design.

For more information, visit zharava.org.

Desi Jordanoff, Founder and Artistic Director

Desi Jordanoff Desi Jordanoff (DJ) was born in a city surrounded by beautiful mountains and situated in a valley under a sleeping volcano in a very unique ethnographic region, where people dance and talk fast and have very fiery personalities. This may explain in part her fiery energetic nature. The crazy birth town is Sofia, Bulgaria and the year is unknown. Desi is coming from a family of artists, dancers and choreographers. Her father, Todor Marinov, her aunt Penka Rizova and her uncle Iliya Rizov, all three, were in the founding group of the first Bulgarian State folk Ensemble, Philip Koutev in 1951. Her grandfather was a famous painter and her sister is a ballerina and a choreographer. In this culturally charged atmosphere Desi learned dancing at a very early age and started dancing in various children groups since her 5th year of age.

Desi has over 30 years of dance experience both with professional and amateur groups and her teaching, choreographing and directing experience spans throughout the last 20 years both in Bulgaria and the United States.

The love of singing comes form DJ's mom, Ivanka, who used to sing at home gatherings and other functions alone or with her sisters. Desi sang in choires and on stage throughout her extensive artistic career. Ever since Desi made the first dance steps, dance has become her inspiration and remained her love and a second profession, which kept her sane and carried her through her entire life. Once hooked, since early age Desi never gave up in her efforts to keep on dancing, creating and to spread the beauty and the energy of the Bulgarian Folk dance, music and song everywhere she went in the world.

In addition to founding and directing Zharava for the past seven years, Desi has over the same period taught and choreographed dance for children in grades K-12 at the Bulgarian Educational and Cultural Center in Washington, DC. She is also an adjunct dance faculty at the National Catherdral School and for the past 3 years has taught Bulgarian folk dance to the students from NCS's dance program. From 1992 - 2000, she was Artistic Director and Choreographer at the Bulgarian Macedonian Cultural and Educational Center in Pittsburgh, PA. She has also performed with and choreographed for the Pittsburgh International Folk Theater from 1992-1998.

For more information on Desi Jordanoff, visit zharava.org/leadership.

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