By Mudassir Raja
Velislava Metodieva Velkova, a Bulgarian expatriate, has been working as a market researcher in Qatar for nine years. While living in Doha, she had her love for traditional Bulgarian dance rekindled. She has been organising regular dance classes, teaching the art to interested children and adults.
Velislava has also been attending different cultural events organised by the Embassy of Bulgaria and has become well-known in her community in Doha. Besides dance, she has also been teaching yoga classes.
Community recently caught up with the dancer for a chat. Excerpts:
Tell us about yourself.
I came to Doha in 2009. I have a university degree in finance and marketing and have been working as a market researcher in Qatar.
I have great admiration for my parents, especially for my father, as he provided me every facility of life. Whilst my father passed away, my mother lives in Bulgaria. I also have a sister who lives in Bulgaria.
How have you developed the art of dance?
Whatever I have been doing in my life, dance has been a part of it. I have had an abiding interest in dance since childhood. I used to dance at my house and different weddings even before I went to school. Initially, it was raw. Then, at my school, a teacher saw me dancing and told my parents about my interest and persuaded them to help hone my skill.
I practiced hard and won many prizes at different festivals in my country. At one point, I became a solo dancer. When I was in school, the teachers also wanted me to be an athlete as I ran faster than boys!
I chose mathematics for studies in high school, but continued to dance. I did different theatre performances after high school and followed noted dance trainers in my country. There are different kinds of dances and costumes that I used to wear for dance.
How did you become a professional dance trainer?
Well, I never took up any professional dance course during my studies. I opted for banking and marketing and got a job, which meant the dancing bit came to a grinding halt.
It rekindled in Doha. It was during a Bulgarian Day celebration here that people saw me dancing. A group of my compatriots approached me and asked if I could teach their kids. The idea did not materialise immediately even though the-then ambassador was also interested in arranging dance classes.
For some time, I had medical issues and struggled with my health. Yoga practices actually helped me out.
It was in 2014 when people from my community again pushed me to arrange dance classes. After I recovered, I got myself a place to teach with the help of my yoga teacher. I have been teaching at Radisson Blu for over three years now and they do it only for fun and learning.
It is not only for Bulgarians. I have learners from 20 countries. I am happy to train other nationals about my traditional dances. I compose dances and try to bring my students onstage.
What plans do you have to improve the dance classes?
I am not ambitious about it. However, I enjoy teaching different styles. Some of my students are shy and others afraid. They feel like babies when they do not know what to do.
On a side note, many Bulgarians, who have come to Doha have learnt different traditional dances and taken the experience with them. I feel it’s amazing! One woman brought her deaf mother to my class and I made her dance. I have seen Japanese expatriates taking special interest in Bulgarian culture as well as Arabs and Africans. Then , you have these kids enjoying dance, too. Dance is something that I want to share with others. Qatar is a place where there are so many nationalities. My classes also connect people. The dance worked for me as magic when I was seriously ill.
How do define the dance? Tell us about the Bulgarian dance also.
Dance, for me, is a way of self-expression. It is a way to connect with people, a way to express your inner soul. It is a very spiritual thing. It is the ultimate expression of spirituality and connection.
Bulgaria is an old country. Located in the Balkan Peninsula, it has seen many invaders. We have a rich heritage to share with the rest of the world. My country is very rich in history, culture, food and natural beauty. The dances I do follow Balkan styles; it is all very region-layered. We are a small country, but at the same time, we have different ethnographic areas. So, there are different styles of dances giving different vibes. I practice all styles of dance. Different dances have different manifestations. I advise aspiring dancers to just go for it!
How do you see life in Qatar?
I really like it here in Qatar and plan to stay a long time. Admittedly, in the beginning, it was difficult to adapt as it was very different from my own country, but now it feels great.
I have so many friends from all over the globe. I get a lot of respect from the locals here. I am also curious to explore and fascinated about local traditions and Arabic culture and art in any form.
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