The Bulgarian dance club hosted an event on Tuesday to celebrate the Orthodox Easter, which is this Sunday, by serving traditional food and performing intricate dances.
Senior Gergana Valcheva, who coordinated the event, said the group had planned it so everyone could celebrate Easter the traditional Bulgarian way.
"Bulgarian Easter traditions are quite different from ones over here," she said. "We're putting it together so we can enjoy it and show it to the rest of the university."
The group bought and hard-boiled 100 eggs for the event, said Valcheva, who is originally from Burgas, Bulgaria, because dying eggs was a very important part of Easter.
"Egg painting is a must," she said. "Usually the first egg you paint is red and you keep it until the next Easter. Someone goes around the family and rubs the egg on everyone's cheeks for good health."
Evie Kancheva, who graduated from University of Richmond last year, said that everyone would paint their eggs either the Thursday or Saturday before Easter. On Easter morning, she said it was tradition to test the eggs against each other to see which was the sturdiest.
"On Sunday, everyone battles with the eggs," she said. "One person holds an egg, and the other person tries to crack it. It is a very famous tradition. If you keep your egg intact after a couple of battles, then you are the winner." Kancheva said that the winning egg was then placed in front of the religious icon and is saved until the next year, when it would be replaced.
Among the food served was kozunak, which Valcheva described as sweet bread and kebabche, which she said was minced meat that was either baked or fried, but was not traditionally eaten on Easter. To drink, the group served airyan, which is plain Bulgarian yogurt mixed with water and a bit of salt.
"It is slightly salty and slightly sour," Valcheva said. "It is a drink that people who are not used to it do not like, but Bulgarians love it, especially during the summer."
Dancers dressed in traditional Bulgarian costumes performed various dances. One of the dancers said that the outfits represented the areas that the dances had originated from.
Senior Ana Petrova, whose hometown is in Varna, Bulgaria, said that learning the more fast-paced dances had been a challenge.
"Some of these dances are known to be intricate and very difficult to learn," she said. "They are a crucial element of the Bulgarian culture."
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Valcheva agreed, saying that singing and dancing were a large part of their culture and that it was not uncommon for people in a Bulgarian social gathering to start dancing, no matter where they may be.
"Most restaurants play traditional music and, if they play a song that you know the dance to, people will just get up and dance," she said. "Even if they don't know the moves, they will get up anyway. There are some basic dances that everyone knows."
Valcheva, Petrova and Kancheva said that they had all learned the traditional dances when they were younger. Kancheva said that every student had to learn to dance as part of his or her gym requirement.
"Before I came to Richmond, I wasn't passionate about Bulgarian dancing," Valcheva said. "In Bulgaria, I only knew the basic dance, but when I came here, I joined the group because it felt like a little piece of home. I am not somebody who really enjoys being in front of people, but dancing is kind of relaxing; it felt natural."
During some of the dances, which left the performers out of breath, certain members of the group emitted high-pitched noises, in order to set a happy mood for the dance.
While the dance was going on, two of the members stood to the side, singing along to the music in Bulgarian in a voice that was described by Petrova as being almost "inhuman," as it came from the throat, which is not heard in American music.
After a long night of dancing, Valcheva said that she was glad that people had been able to see how the Bulgarian Easter was celebrated.
"I'm happy that people enjoyed the food and that many people joined us in the dancing," she said. "It wasn't just us up there performing; they helped us too."
Contact staff writer Charlotte Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org
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