How folklor has affected my life

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Jovana Kuzmanovic

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How folklor has affected my life

Oplenac taking a quick picture in Arizona before their performance.

Oplenac taking a quick picture in Arizona before their performance.

Marko Kuzmanovic

Oplenac taking a quick picture in Arizona before their performance.

Marko Kuzmanovic

Marko Kuzmanovic

Oplenac taking a quick picture in Arizona before their performance.

I remember my first dance practice like it was yesterday. I was five years old, I had my cute, pink gym shoes on and my Justice tracksuit. My teacher placed us in a half-circle, and ever since then I’ve been dancing my heart away.

Little did I know that this small hall with a little, old basketball hoop and a stained carpet would become a place that I would cherish going to for the next 12 years of my life.

My folklor (Serbian dance) ensemble, Oplenac, consists of four groups categorized by age ranging from five years old all the way to eighteen. We practice every Friday and fasten the belts on our opanci (folklor shoes) for performances almost every Saturday. We perform a variety of dances from numerous regions of Serbia and each one has a specific flair to it.

I’ve traveled to many places with my group from small states such as Ohio and Nebraska to more exciting places like Arizona and Canada. Even though the trips were fun, the glamour of traveling will never outshine the valuable lessons and connections that this group has provided me with.

Being involved in folklor has not only taught me beautiful dances, but it has also educated me about my culture. Learning folklor was important to my parents since it was a struggle to keep our cultural roots intact while still living the American lifestyle.

In high school especially, folklor became a huge part of my life. Coming from a middle school that was split into two separate high schools, I walked into freshman year like a lost puppy with not many friends. I made a few friends, but I mostly stuck with my small group of peers from middle school.

While everyone was hyping up about the football games on Friday nights, I was overjoyed about how I get to go to practice again.

High school has many obstacles– peer pressure, getting good grades, struggling to make friends and trying to fit in. All these stressors magically drift away whenever I walk into the little dancing hall. At folklor, I never feel judged or have to be someone I am not.

The people in my folklor group always know how to put a smile on my face and leave me in tears from laughter. These amazing people taught me the real value of having people in your life that you can truly call friends and in my case, family.

I have always been that average student who hasn’t really shined in any particular subject or had any special athletic abilities. However, folklor is one of the only things that I can say with pride that I’m skilled at and have a passion for. Therefore, it has been a major factor in building my confidence and self-esteem.

There have been countless nights where we have had to repeat the same step endlessly or practice past 10:30 p.m. because our teacher wasn’t satisfied. These times were brutal, but they have taught me that things aren’t going to be handed to me. In order to be the best, one must persevere and put in effort to get the results they want.

In all of our dances, there are many steps that are comprised of small intricate details. These small steps are what really bring elegance and beauty to the dances. With that, I learned to embrace everything in my life, even the small things that seem insignificant.

Now that I’m eighteen, my folklor journey is coming to an end and I can say that every person I’ve met, every brutal practice and every intricate step that I danced made a huge impact on my life and has shaped me into the person I am today.