Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” was established in distant 1937 by Marko Grigorov and Gospodin Radenkov. From 1972 to 1998 the artistic leader of the ensemble was Raina Todorova. During her leadership, the ensemble acquired international fame through numerous participations in international folk festivals. From 1998 to 2011 the ensemble was led by Krasimir Hristov. Throughout the years as assistant choreographers worked Vasil Radev, Emil Genov, Petar Vuchkov, Rumyana Katsarova and Veselina Parashkevova. The current artistic leaders of the ensemble are Yordanka Shopova and Ivan Shopov.
Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” is a “Representative Ensemble” of the CIOFF® /International Council of the Organizers of Folklore Festivals and Traditional Arts/.
Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar’s” repertoire includes dances from all ethnographic areas in Bulgaria: Northern region (“Severnyashka Impresia”, “Cherkezki Dance”, “Severnyatsi”); Dobrudzha region (“Shinitsi”, “Varnenski Dance”); Trakia region (“Trakiiski Smesen Dance”, Dzhinovski Dance”, “Libe Le”); Shopski region (“Zhenski Shopski Dance”, “Mominski praznik v Shopluka”, “Shopska Suita”, “Star Shopski Dance”); Pirin region (“Elenko, mome malenko”, “Sharena gaida”), and variety folklore rituals and traditions/habits, as well.
The costumes used in Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar”’s performances have been stored and expertly kept for already more than five decades. Some of them, together with the accessories, are unique and authentic. The good-looking immaculate appearance of the costumes and accessories during the performances on stage are achieved by the joint efforts and care of each member of the Ensemble.
Over the years, the Ensemble became a laureate and a winner of awards and diplomas after taking part in international cultural forums: Zakopane (Poland), Budapest (Hungary), Rostock (Germany), Gottwaldov (nowadays Zlin, the Czech Republic), Catania, Rome, Venice (Italy), Karmiel (Israel), Banska Bystrica, Terchova (Slovakia), “Golden Cloves” in Yalova, Çorum (Turkey), Folklore Festival “KaDans” in Torhout (Belgium), Budva (Montenegro), Zakynthos Island (Greece), International Festival “Tirenia” in Viareggio (Italy), “RFI Rencontres de Folklore Internationales” in Fribourg (Switzerland), International Folklore Frestival “Latium World Folkloric Festival” in Italy, Bucharest (Romania), “Erau International Folk Art Festival” in Tenggarong (Indonesia) and many others.
The Ensemble’s participation in Italian television RAI broadcast with the world-known Bulgarian choir “The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices“ is written by gold letters in the history of the Ensemble.
In 1993 the Ensemble “Zhar” at NCC “Dr. Petar Beron – 1926” performed in front of Pope John Paul II at the audience hall in the Vatican. After the performance, the Holy Father expressed his greetings to the Ensemble in Bulgarian language. Up to today, the Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” is the only Bulgarian group that received the privilege to make a private performance in the Vatican.
In 2008, in front of audience of one thousand people, the jury of the Folklore Festival “Golden Cloves” in Yalova, Turkey, adjudged the second place to the Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” among the strong competition of 11 dance groups from all over the world. Moreover, the group won the “Grand Prix” from the National Competition “Young Stars” – 2002 and 2003, as well as a number of other awards, including a Prize for costumes and a Prize for music (Big Dance Award of Sofia).
In 2013 Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” celebrated its 75th anniversary with a grand concert in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. The audience witnessed the premiere of “Elenko, Mome Malenko” dance – the result of a first-time cooperation between Folklore Dance Ensemble “Zhar” and the musicians from ethno-fusion group “Oratnitza”. The dance choreography was created by Yordanka Shopova and Ivan Shopov. The project was extremely well-accepted by the viewers. So in December 2014 the Ensemble was a guest performer at “Oratnitza”’s 5th birthday concert, which took place in a popular club in Sofia before an audience of over 1,000 young people, captivated by the magic and beauty of Bulgarian folklore.
The Ensemble is a regular participant in all major cultural events in Sofa, organized by the Association of Dancers, Sofia Municipality, Triaditsa Region and, the National Community Center “Dr. Petar Beron – 1926”. As a tradition, Ensemble “Zhar” is the main organizer of the annual charity concerts “To Defeat Evil with Dancе” – a voluntary initiative that supports various charity causes.