2023 Chicago Spring Festival, April 21-23, 2023 – Teachers & Guest Artists Info The annual Chicago Spring Festival of Eastern European Dance and Music always strives to showcase the best dancers, singers, and musicians in concert and workshops during its weekend long festival that attracts participants from across the U.S., Canada, and even Europe.
Dance Valentin & Tania Ivanov are directors of the most dynamic and exciting Vivanov Bulgarian performance dance group. They also teach weekly dance classes sponsored by the Bulgarica Cultural Center. Valentin and Tania are two of the most talented dancers and choreographers for Bulgarian folk dance today, in or out of Bulgaria. Their dance troupe had previously performed to great acclaim at the 2019 Spring Festival at the International House of the University of Chicago.
Galia Miloucheva Kuo and John Kuo, co-directors of the dance ensemble Balkanske Igre in Chicago, are long-time teachers and performers of Balkan folklore, specializing in Bulgarian and Macedonian dance as well as the old-time kolos of the Croatian and Serbian immigrant communities. Galia grew up immersed in the music and dance culture of her native Pirin-Macedonian region in Bulgaria. She studied folklore with Bratoy Bratoyev and, before emigrating to the US, danced with Ensemble "Pirintsi" at the Neofit Rilski Southwestern Bulgarian University.
Galia and John are among the most experienced teachers working not only with American and Canadian enthusiasts of Balkan dance, but with a dozen folklore groups in the ethnic Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, and Serbian communities, and even teaching at Goran Alachki’s Macedonian Pearl Seminar in Berovo, Macedonia, as well as for workshops in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria. Both Galia and John have worked with primary sources in the villages as well as with eminent masters of Bulgarian and Macedonian folklore and in turn have been passing on not just the patterns and structures but the finer nuances of these traditions to both their ethnic Balkan community students as well as to the general public in programs at the University of Chicago, University of Toronto, as well as at SummerDance, WinterDance, and the World Music Festival sponsored by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Field Museum, Old Town School of Folk Music, Balkanalia, etc. In 1998, John led the Kitka folklore group from the Sts. Peter & Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church on a performing tour of Macedonia sponsored by Makedonska Matica. In 2018, John and Galia led a combined group of Ensemble Balkanske Igre and Kitka in performances at the Ilindenski Denovi in Bitola. In 2022, the Ensemble Balkanske Igre and Kitka had the privilege to open for the “Soul of Macedonia” concert for Tanec Macedonian National Folk Ensemble of Skopje.
Galia and John have been directors of the University of Chicago International Folk Festival, the International House Festival of Nations concert, and the Spring Festival of Eastern European Dance and Music which for many years was co-sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for Eastern European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES), the International House at the University of Chicago, and WHPK. Galia and John have also been active in presenting or facilitating the concerts of such legendary talents as Esma Redzepova (the “Queen of Romany Music”), Ferus Mustafov, Ivo Papazov, Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, KAL, Ivan Dyakov, and many other top Balkan folk musical artists. John received a leadership award from the Folk Dance Council of Chicago, and in 2006 was presented the 50 Years of the United Nations medal by the Bulgarian Consul General of Chicago, the Honorable Ivan Sotirov.
Music Trio Charodea (Sorcerors) is a Chicago-based Bulgarian women’s choir consisting of Iliana Georgieva, Zoya Minkova, and Jenia Ivanovna.Iliana Georgieva is a Bulgarian-born singer and a member of the generation of musicians that migrated to the "New World." A graduate of the National School of Folk Arts in Shiroka Lâka, she continued her studies at the Academy of Musical and Dance Arts in Plovdiv, where she trained until her arrival in the USA. Iliana Georgieva has performed with several groups including Balkan Voices, Ivan Milev Balkan folk Band, The Voices of Little Bulgaria Chicago, and Trio Charodea. In 2011 she participated in the USA and Canada tour of Petar Ralchev Quartet and recorded several songs for the album "Live from Bulgaria." In 2016 with the initiative of her husband Nikolay Georgiev and the help of their friend Peyo Peev, Iliana released her first solo album " Somewhere within." which is a collaboration of the finest Bulgarian arrangers and musicians in that genre. The CD includes 10 original songs that show the ability of the composers and arrangers to create one-of-a-kind music, easily combining the traditional Bulgarian tunes and measures with elements from other musical styles and genres. Over 50 of the top Bulgarian musicians have taken part in this project. Zoya Minkova is a graduate from the Academy of Musical and Dance Arts (AMTI) in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and VanderCook College of Music in Chicago. She has been an elementary school music teacher for fifteen years. Jenia Ivanovna-Mircheva attended the National School of Folk Arts Filip Kutev in Kotel, Bulgaria. She previously performed with the Cosmic Voices Choir of Bulgaria as well as the Bulgarian National Ensemble Filip Kutev of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Dimitâr Stankov, an accomplished player of the kaval, was born in the city of Stara Zagora in the Thracian region. From the third grade he began learning to play kaval, inspired by his grandfather, Nikola Stankov, a famous kaval master from the Yambol region. Dimitâr finished his secondary school education with a specialty in music in the city of Kazanlâk and then graduated from Shumen University "Bishop Konstantin Preslavski" with a major in musical pedagogy. Beginning at an early age, he has played music with many children's and youth ensembles. Subsequently, Dimitâr performed professionally for four years with the Shumen State Ensemble. One could say that Dimitâr has had a lifelong passion for and immersion in the rich folk traditions of Bulgaria and, especially, his native Thracian region. Since his arrival in the US, Dimitâr has performed in concert and for dance parties at Ensemble Balkanske Igre's annual Spring Festival in Chicago. We are delighted to have him join us in this year's 58th Anniversary Spring Festival.
Yovcho Stoev was born in the village of Kavrakirovo near Petrich in the Pirin region and studied in Kavrokirovo, Bansko, and Blagoevgrad. Kavrakirovo is notable throughout the Pirin region for its masters of the zurna. Yovcho, an adept on the bouzouki, has a love for all varieties of Balkan folklore and enjoys sharing his passion for singing, playing music, good drink, and other joys of life with his family and friends.
Concert Performers Bulgarica is a Bulgarian cultural center that hosts classes and performing ensembles. We are grateful for partnership and support from the Bulgarica Center for the 58th Anniversary Spring Festival. Bulgarica Center is directed by Pepi Georgiev, Emilia Ivanova, & Yana Kopcheva.
Founded 58 years ago, the Ensemble Balkanske Igre, sponsor of the Spring Festival, has performed throughout the US and Canada and in 1994 had the privilege of presenting Bulgaria with a Shopsko Horo in the World Cup Football (Soccer) Opening Ceremonies witnessed by 63,000 fans in Chicago’s Soldier Field and over one billion live television audience worldwide. That year, Bulgaria achieved its greatest success in the World Cup by defeating reigning champion Germany and Argentina with Diego Maradona to advance to the final four. We are delighted to welcome the addition of the Kitka Gurnee BG dancers to our group this year.
Kitka Macedonian Folklore is based at the Sts. Peter & Paul Macedonian Orthodox Church in Crown Point, IN, the first Macedonian Orthodox church founded and consecrated in the US. Kitka has performed throughout North America and in 1998 and 2018 performed at the Ilindenski Denovi in Bitola. In 2022, Kitka along with Ensemble Balkanske Igre had the privilege of being invited to perform as one of the opening acts for the “Soul of Macedonia” concert of the Tanec Macedonian National Folk Ensemble of Skopje. Since 1986, either singly or together, John and Galia have been instructors and choreographers for Kitka.
Krajiški Biseri directed by Ismeta Keserović is a Chicago-based performing group which represents the rich folkloric traditions of the Bosnian community.
Oko Sokolovo is the folklore group based at the Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Cathedral in Chicago. This talented troupe of dancers is directed by Milan Andrijanić.
Trio Charodea brings together three of the most talented and experienced singers of Bulgarian folk music. See their individual bios above.
Vishyvanka is one of the most exciting and dynamic Ukrainian folk dance groups in North America. We are excited to welcome them to their first appearance in the Spring Festival concert.
Vivanov Bulgarian Dance Group, Formation VivAnov Dance Group Chicago was founded in 2019by Tanya and Valentin Ivanov. The group consists of twenty-five dancers, some of whom are professional dancers. The group has participated in festivals in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Valparaiso, Milwaukee, as well as at the presentation of Hristo Stoichkov's autobiography signing. The group is proud to organize a concert on the occasion of the National Day of Bulgaria on March 3 in Elk Grove Village together with its partners from Bulgarica in 2020 and again in 2022 to organize the first edition of the Chicago Folk Festival, which this year will take place on October 7at AI Larson Prarie Center for the Arts, 201 Schaumburg Court, Schaumburg, IL. The group's repertoire is entirely original. The formation is oriented towards both the traditional and the more modern trends in dance art. Valentin Ivanov graduated from the Academy of Musical and Dance Arts in Plovdiv in 2002, and Tanya from the Free University in Varna. Tanya is a graduate of Vasil Gerlimov and was a member of the Ensemble Zagore in Stara Zagora. Valentin and Tanya Ivanova were soloists in one of the first private formations East Wind with Vasil Gerlimov, as well as participants in the performance of The Legend of Lili Ignatova, Etnika formation for the Slavi Show, as well as choreographer and lead dancer in Neshka Robeva's troupe. Valentin and Tanya were contributors to the choreographies in the performances Vidritsa, Meeting in the Memory, and The Party. The troupe rehearses every Saturday at 4:00 p.m.in the hall of dance school "Bulgarica" at 1120 S. Elmhurst Rd, Mt. Prospect, IL