Dancing for the love of Serbian culture

When he dances in dark colours and his steps are fast-paced, Miroslav Marcetic thinks of the northern part of his Serbian heritage. When in bright colours and relaxed pace, he has the south in mind.

“Each dance has its own identity,” Marcetic said. “It’s extremely important in a country like Canada, with it being multicultural, to showcase your culture, not only to boast, but to make it a better country.”

Toronto is home to the third largest population of Serbians – 26,000 people. Although they have adapted to their new home, they have also maintained their traditions and customs from their homeland. One of these traditions is folk dancing.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the Academy of Serbian Folk Dancing, “Miroslav Bata Marcetic,” a folk dance group performing at locations all over Toronto. The academy’s 300 dancers range in age from five to 30.

“Folk dancing is one of the best ways for us as parents to not only pass down our traditions to our children, but also to showcase it to the rest of the world,” Marcetic said.

Serbian folk dancing is traditional and illustrates a strong element of Serbian culture. The dances show the way the Serbian community and its families come together on important days, such as weddings, Christmas or Easter.

Mirko Miljevic, 25, has danced with the academy for almost 18 years.

“I first started out dancing because my parents forced me,” he said. “Then I came to like it for the new friends I made, but most importantly it is so interesting to learn about different regions in not only Serbia, but former Yugoslavia through dance and culture.”

Along with the ensembles for youth, Marcetic also holds dance classes for adults who want to learn how to folk dance or, the way 22-year-old Bogdan Stankovic sees it, just get in some exercise.

“I like to think of it as my cardio day,” he said.

A bonus for the dancers is travelling and visiting new places. The dance troupe has performed all around the world, from Montreal to San Diego to Trebinje in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To mark its 12th anniversary, the Academy of Serbian Folk Dancing is holding a season-ending special concert to showcase all six of ensembles, including the recreational group for adults. It takes place on May 14, at the Hart House Theatre.