Ventzi Sotirov (Bulgarian dances)

Ventzi is a native of the Pirin Macedonian region and a graduate of the Institute of Choreography in Sofia, Bulgaria. He has been dancing since the age of seven when he was a member of a Sandanski children’s ensemble. He danced with the Pirin National Ensemble for 11 years. Ventzi was voted “No. 1 Ethnic Dancer” for four years in national competitions of professional dancers in Bulgaria. He also taught Bulgarian dancing for children and arranged choreography for amateurs aspiring to enter choreography institutes.

Ventzi presents exciting dances from all six ethnographic regions of Bulgaria: Shope, Thrace, Rhodope, North Bulgaria, Dobrudja, and his native Pirin (Macedonia), where he also directs his own dance Ensemble Bulgaria. Ventzi has taught throughout North America, Europe and Japan.

He plays tupan and tarambuka and has taught workshops in these instruments. Since moving to the Chicago area in 1991, Ventzi has taught at many groups, workshops and camps including Ethnic Dance Chicago, Door County Folk Festival, Balkanske Igre’s Reunion Festival, Madison Folk Ball, Santa Barbara’s Ethnic Music and Dance Symposium, Illini Folk Dance Weekend, and Buffalo Gap Music and Dance Camp.

Fusae Carroll (Macedonian dances of Atanas Kolarovski)

Fusae was born in Oita, Japan. She began folk dancing as a college student in Tokyo, engaging in a broad array of international dances. In the mid-1970s, after her graduation, her interest focused on Balkan dancing. She began traveling abroad to learn more about the dances and their cultures. She has studied dance in Romania and Macedonia and has taken additional classes in Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. For the last thirty-five years, Fusae has regularly taken foreign dance teachers on tour in Japan where they have taught workshops and weekend camps throughout the country. She moved to Sacramento in 1984, but returns to Japan three or four times a year for the tours. She was invited to camps throughout Canada and United States to teach as an assistant to Atanas Kolarovski, the now-legendary Macedonian dancer and choreographer.

Andy Taylor-Blenis (international dances and dance stretches)

We are delighted to welcome back a beloved SAFDF legend! Andy holds a B.F.A. in dance with a minor in social anthropology. She is well versed in modern, jazz, and folk dances of Portuguese, Scottish, French, Hungarian, Armenian, Mexican, and Balkan origins. She holds a teaching certificate in Scottish Country Dance and is registered in St. Andrews in Scotland. Andy is also currently artistic director at the Boston branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society — the first branch established outside the United Kingdom in 1950. She is also a former performer of the modern dance company Prometheus. Andy has contributed endless teaching, choreography, and inspiration to SAFDF over many years. This year she again brings us her one-of-a-kind stretches between teaching sessions!

Seneca Patino (Samba)

Seneca is a dance director with Samba Vida Drum and Dance, a very popular San Antonio performance group. Seneca started dancing with the group when she was just 8 years old.  Her love for dance continued throughout her entire education but especially in high school and her college years. While attending Northwest Vista College, she studied with a variety of diverse dance professionals, but ultimately graduated from UTSA with her BA in Education. Now married and a mom of two, Seneca loves teaching and choreographing for Samba Vida, where she also serves in costume design and construction.