International House to Host Serbian and Macedonian Folk Ensemble

By Natalie Kessler and Rena Slavin
Global Voices Metcalf Fellows

On Saturday, June 3, International House at the University of Chicago will host the Annual Dukati and Biseri Concert – an evening of live music and dance in celebration of authentic Serbian and Macedonian traditions.

Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble is a Serbian and Macedonian folk dance and music ensemble based in Chicago’s Norwood Park neighborhood. Founded in 2009, this group is one of the first independent non-profit organizations in the field of Serbian and Macedonian folk performance. Today, it consists of a performing ensemble, a junior ensemble, a vocal ensemble, and an orchestra. Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble regularly performs in the Chicago area and travels across the United States and Canada.

The members of Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble strive to create concerts with music and choreography that represent authentic Serbian and Macedonian folk traditions. According to Dusanka Kangrga, the ensemble’s president, the process of putting together a performance consists of extensive research and consultations with musicologists. With guidance from specialists, the Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble is able to present detailed and historically accurate performances.

The Serbian and Macedonian region boasts an incredibly diverse folkloric tradition. For the members of Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble, the goal is not to present a generic Eastern European folk performance; instead, they aim to honor as many regional traditions as possible. “[The style of each performance] doesn’t just boil down to Serbian or Macedonian, it boils down to each individual region, city, and town, and how they developed,” Kangrga said.

The Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble’s musical component is a testament to the group’s dedication to authenticity. Some dance numbers are performed to professional arrangements recorded by folk orchestras in Serbia and Macedonia. The ensemble also performs with live musicians who specialize in traditional instruments from the region.

Folk music and dance performances are not only staged for entertainment’s sake; according to Kangrga, the accessibility of such performances makes them effective introductions to the culture they represent. Although a folk concert cannot provide a full understanding of an entire region’s history, it can indeed give the audience a visual representation of a culture with which they are not familiar. For Kangrga, this aspect is essential: “[Folk music and dance] give you a visual picture of what our culture looked like back 100 years ago,” and depict history differently than the typical chronological history book.

Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble is eager to return to International House for its annual concert. The ensemble regularly performs at the Balkan Spring Festival as well as other events at International House. At the upcoming event, the ensemble will perform several authentically choreographed dance sets with live music and traditional costumes. Makedonka, a Macedonian dance ensemble based in Toronto, will also be featured as a guest ensemble.

The Annual Dukati and Biseri Concert will take place on Saturday, June 3, at 6:30 p.m. in the International House Assembly Hall, 1414 E. 59th St. Doors will open at 6 p.m. This event is open to the public; tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at dukatibiseri.com/events or at the door. Admission is free for University of Chicago students with valid ID.

The Dukati and Biseri Annual Concert is co-sponsored by the International House Global Voices Performing Arts Series as part of Alumni Weekend at the University of Chicago. For more information about other Global Voices Events and co-sponsorship opportunities, or for persons with disabilities who may require assistance, please contact Mary Beth DeStefano at (773)753-2274 or mdestefa@uchicago.edu.

 

This article was originally published in the Hyde Park Herald.