Kanykei Iskander kyzy ’13 (LaGrange, KY/ Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)

I would like to share my story of becoming a professional folk dancer and how much FLEX program helped me at this. I am a member of Oriented Dance Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic (ODFKR), where dancers specialize in folk and classic dance.

sanira_BHstoryFirst I started dancing as a hobby, a way to get fit and stay healthy after my exchange year. So my journey to the world of professional dance began, just like all great adventures do, by accident. But since the very first class I attended, I realized it’s not going to take too much to fall in love with beautiful Eastern cultural dance. I came to the Federation expecting to see what we all associate with Eastern dance due to the image it has throughout the world. The image of half-naked bodies, making “shaky movements”. But reality was amazingly different. I was shocked by the difficulty and modesty of Eastern dance, where not one part of the body is showing and all the movements are made with great work of muscles I never knew I could use.

Besides the challenge I saw in being able to control my body so perfectly I heard the music and it was calling  my soul. Arabian music is so complex and has so many layers that every time you listen to the same composition you hear something new. No wander that dancing for this music takes so much energy. Since the summer of 2013 when I returned home from FLEX I was thoroughly learning how to use my body to express my feelings, my soul. And the latest results show that I am getting where I want to be as an artist.

On the June 20, 2014, the Federation organized a dance Festival that included dance workshops and the 1st International Championship at Eastern Arabian dance, “Oriental 2014”. The Festival lasted three days. Three days of emotional intensity, hard work, sweat and tears. I had nose bleeds from exhaustion, but still kept doing my best so that people would see what we wanted to show, because my exchange experience taught me not to give up on personal goals. People saw amazing performance on the opening show at the Festival, talented artists and great competitions. Our teachers work with us not only as solo dances but also as a group. On the Championship we presented solo dances, duets and groups. With my dances that included 3 solos, 3 duets and 1 group dance I took seven gold medals which was a big success for me. But even more I was happy for the Federation and my teachers for making this Festival happen. We are not stopping to celebrate for too long. Better start getting ready for the future performances. I am looking into my future with eyes full of excitement and into my past with gratefulness, because if it was not to my FLEX exchange experience I wouldn’t become so open to other cultures, so interested in new things. And most of all, exchange year taught me to risk, reasonably of course, and dare to dream big. For that, I am forever grateful.