From the moment Lilia told me about her proposal for Hopa Tropa I was ecstatic and dying to be a part of it. During the audition process I had to present a monologue and a song, the standard for musical theatre performers. As a musical theatre performer I am very comfortable with dance and have training in many areas; However, the dance audition was the scariest and most challenging part of the audition process.
It was there that I met Ivan. This 6 foot Bulgarian choreographer exudes strength, power, and insanity. The dance styles he engaged us in were fun, aerobic, and unique. The Bulgarian culture’s dance and music is the antithesis of any training and methodology I have ever experienced as an American actor. The body position and weight distribution are grounded and syncopated on the soft beats, while all of my ballet training has involved being lifted and light with the body and its weight distribution. I have had to reteach my ear, my feet, my hands, and my heart to listen to these wonderful Bulgarian tempos, rhythms, and melodies that are almost invisible to the American ear and foot.
I have had the time of my life learning many new dances from different regions of Bulgaria, each with their own purpose, story, and style. Ivan is not one to teach in the typical classical training in front of a mirror breaking down each step, each foot movement, each arm position, but instead has engaged us in a positive, constructive sink or swim experience. He has thrown us right into the mix and told us to have fun and look like we are having fun and the steps will just come to us. We took dance classes with him and several folk dancers from Siberia, Spain, Bulgaria, and many other nations. These women in his class literally opened their arms to us, sometimes physically carrying us through the steps until we got it right or smiled and laughed the entire way through, attempting to grasp at least one element of the choreography.