Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion – one of the highlights of the inaugural Thistles and Sunflowers festival, which premiered as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 returned to the stage on 28 April 2023 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre as part of Pomegranates festival of international traditional dance.
Choreographed and performed by the trad dance duo Ariana Stoyanova and Alexis Street, supported by dancers and musicians from the lands of thistles and sunflowers, this newly revived live show draws on the parallels between Scottish and Bulgarian folk dance traditions, regional variations and friendships.
Enjoy the edited highlights here:
It also received the the four-star review by WJQuins of The Quinntessential Review
A fitting choice to close the opening night of the Pomegranates Festival 2023, the result is an ambiable, gently choreographed international dance battle. No shade is thrown, only affection. Moreover, it’s fascinating to see how the music, and dance of two cultures shaped by the bagpipes both resemble, and diverge from, each other. The Highland tradition, built on precision and agility contrasted with the complex footwork and subtly rhythmic Bulgarian discipline certainly attracts one’s attentions shoe-wards. Of course, in the end dance is a common language, and so Stoyanova & Street’s choreography ultimately sees the assembled dancers settle into a series of interwoven progressions. Paired with their ‘opposite’ numbers and dancing to a blended rhythm, the result is an uplifting and merrily synergistic finale!
It was featured in the Pomegranates festival preview in the LIST Magazine April 2023 issue p.41
The story of the Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion
Once upon a time Edinburgh was struck by an awful pandemic and all theatres laid empty. Alexis and Ariana dreamed of dancing together on the stage. Their dream came true when the theatres opened their doors for the first time since lockdown. The two dancers from the lands of thistles and sunflowers were finally reunited and accompanied by a piper, they danced together for an in-person, socially-distanced audience on 3 August 2021.
Building on their first momentous encounter, Scottish Highland dancer Alexis Street and Bulgarian folk dancer Ariana Stoyanova developed their initial pandemic duet into a new dance ensemble commission by the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland.
Their dance fusion live show marked the finale as part of the Thistles and Sunflowers inaugural festival weekend on 29 May 2022 – an integral part of the Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022. Alexis and Ariana presented and performed their extended version of Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion as a series of newly choreographed solos, duets and ensemble pieces drawing on the parallels between Scottish and Bulgarian folk dance traditions, regional variations and stories with live music accompaniment by Tsvetelina Likova (harp) and Robert Burns (bagpipe).
This world premiere at the Scottish Storytelling Centre was preceded by the welcome notes by special guests, including H.E. Mr. Marin Raykov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Court of St. James’s. It was followed by Balkan Ceilidh when Alexis and Ariana were joined by many more artists from the lands of thistles and sunflowers at the Storytelling Court.
Find out more about the origins of Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion by tuning into these two interviews with Alexis, Ariana and curator Iliyana Nedkova conducted by Wendy Timmons, Chair of Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland
Tsvetelina Likova is a Bulgarian Scot harpist and composer who has performed at numerous concerts as a solo, chamber and orchestra musician from London’s Royal Albert Hall and Edinburgh’s Usher Hall and St. Mary’s Cathedral to the National Palace of Culture Sofia and Thessaloniki Concert Hall.
Alongside her live accompaniment of both Scottish and Bulgarian dance pieces at Thistles & Sunflowers Dance Fusion, Tsvetelina will perform her solo The Golden Bird – an original composition written by the artist and inspired by the fairytale The Golden Bird by Ran Bosilek. It won the first place at the Competition for New Folklore Composition for lever harp by Harps Corner and Friends in 2020. It is also the title of Tsvetelina’s first book for harp inspired by Bulgarian folklore. Enjoy one of her recent trad arrangments here.
Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion is a commission by the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland and curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva in a partnership with Scottish Storytelling Centre, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the UK. Alexis Street and Ariana Stoyanova were commissioned to devise Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion through an initial micro-grant awarded by Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland in July – August 2021, followed by a residency at Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland February – May 2022.
Thistles and Sunflowers Dance Fusion launched as part of Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022 and Thistles and Sunflowers festival running 18 May – 5 June 2022 at Scottish Storytelling Centre – a spotlight on stories and artists from the lands of thistles and sunflowers. Festival initiative of the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland, Thistles and Sunflowers is curated by Iliyana Nedkova and Daniela Dimova-Yaneva and supported by the City of Edinburgh Council Flexible Fund, as well as Tasgadh Fund for Traditional Arts devolved from Creative Scotland and managed by Fèisean nan Gàidheal.
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