â€˜HOPA TROPA KUKERICA!â€™ AT AMBASSADOR THEATER BY JULIA EXLINE
Under the patronage of theÂ Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria,Â Ambassador Theater presentsÂ Hopa Tropa Kukerica!, an authentic celebration of Bulgarian culture! Lilia Slavova wrote and Â directedhis whirlwind of song, dance, puppetry, and traditional masquerade. Hopa Tropa Kukerica!, was choreographed by Ivan Dimitrov. The second part â€“ calledÂ Na Megdana - was directed and choreographed byÂ Desi Jordanoff. The choreography for the entire production was full of joy, high energy, and pride.Â Featured talents included folk music group Orfeia, womenâ€™s vocal ensembleÂ Svitanya, Bulgarian dance ensemble Zharava, and St. Kliment Okhridski Bulgarian School.
Set Designer Antonio Petrov framed a golden curtain with black ones, and strewed the stage with Bulgarian artifacts, such as animal skins, antlers, woven rugs and thick furs, and stick bundles. This creates a village-like atmosphere on which the large cast can sing and dance. The music, arranged by Petko Kolev, remained upbeat for the majority of the production. What really grabbed your attention, however, were the outfits. The women of Orfeia wore elaborate headdresses and glittery gold dresses, their feet peeping out from under the patterned fringe. The dancers were adorned with flowy white blouses that were paired with red-patterned skirts and vests, and there was not a single woman in sight that does not have a large blossom tucked behind her sleek braids.
The production began with a frightened young girl (Mimi, played by a sparkling Gwendolyn Torrence) shrieking about the Kukerica. Her family (Daniel Rovin as Georgij, Konstantin Hadjipanzov as Grandpa Petar, Amie Cazel as Biliana, and Daria Kondova as Baba Mara) decided to distract her by using plain objects (such as rags and gourds) to create puppets. These puppets, designed by Julia Tasheva, were incredibly creative. They made animals such as rabbits and turkeys from household objects, and then finally formed a man from mostly cloth, who then invited a young audience member onstage and presented him with a Bulgarian rose. The actors worked together, practically intertwined, to make these puppets move realistically, and the effect was very interesting and entertaining. Soon, music began and dancers emerged from the audience and danced around the room, with fun choreography by Ivan Dimitrov. It was quite a spectacle, as they joined hands and circled around each other in varying patterns, some beating on drums and chanting. Looking down at the colorful dancers moving together, it was similar to looking into aÂ kaleidoscope. The gold jewelry clinked to the beat as they danced, adding their own unique chime to the music.
After the puppetry, music, and dancing, audience members were welcomed onstage to join the dance, while others walked down the hall to sample traditional Bulgarian food. Workshops with the actors and dancers were also held later in the day for people who wished to attend.
While the entertainment was great, I do wish that the audience behaved more gracefully. Flashes fromÂ cameras were constant, and from every direction, which proved to be a great distraction, and a safety risk for the actors and dancers.
The entertainment was well-executed. It was quite a display of talent!