International dance troupe moves with color in first San Francisco performance

The dancers of Talija Art Co., clothed in brightly colored traditional dress, treated SF State to folk dances originating from the Balkan region for their first-ever San Francisco performance.

Having just arrived from Las Vegas the day before, the dance group, composed of 22 dancers and five musicians, showed no fatigue as they put on a two-hour performance in McKenna Theater Friday night.

Serbian dancers perform Talija Art Co. dance routines, in the McKenna Theatre at SF State, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

Serbian dancers perform Talija Art Co. dance routines, in the McKenna Theatre at SF State, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

Talija is an international art company headed by Dragan Pantelic and has traveled the world through tours in Italy, Greece and Spain. Although the troupe currently touring has 22 dancers, Talija is composed of over 300 members total. While the group specializes in Serbian folk dances, audiences were treated to a wide variety of dances including ones from Romania, Greece, Russia and Hungary.

The troupe is no stranger to touring in the United States, having performed in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, but this was its first time in San Francisco, according to Rita Bravo, one of the organizers of Friday’s event. It was Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts adviser Miriam Smith, however, who got the group to perform in the city.

While traveling through Europe with the “Great American Clog Band,” Smith met the group in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. After befriending Dragan Pantelic, Smith convinced Talija to make a trip to California and perform for the first time in San Francisco.

“(San Francisco) is great,” said Arsenije Peric, the music director for Talija. “We haven’t seen much of it yet, but what we have done so far has been great.”

Talija Art Co. performs mesmerizing Serbian dances under the direction of their CEO and art director Dragan Pantelić, in the McKenna Theatre at SF State Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

Talija Art Co. performs mesmerizing Serbian dances under the direction of their CEO and art director Dragan Pantelić, in the McKenna Theatre at SF State Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Amanda Peterson / Xpress.

Peric, who plays accordion, has been with the company for over 20 years and brought along a full band composed of guitar, clarinet, drum and violin to play live with the dancers. Pantelic played the drum and would jump in from time-to-time and perform a dance with his troupe.

In addition to preparing a full two-hour show, Pantelic was kind enough to put on a special dance lesson for students Thursday night. The lesson, which was full of fun, laughter and energy, left dance students with a new experience and exhaustion.

“I’d never done anything like that,” said Sami Swanson, a kinesiology major and dance minor. “It was such a difference than the (ballet and jazz) that we usually do. I for sure worked up a sweat.”

Pantelic was even happy with the results that the students showed during the two-hour lesson.

“They were very good,” said Pantelic after the lesson. “The students were excellent and they picked up the steps quickly.”

While most of the show included intricate numbers of traditional Serbian and Balkan dances, some of them contained a story as well as comedy. One such number featured male dancers dressed up as sailors and army soldiers who kept trying to gain the affection of two women dancers. Much comedic pushing and shoving commenced before an officer appeared on stage and danced the girls away, however, the sailors and soldiers got the last laugh when at the end of the dance number the girls ended up exiting the stage with the enlisted men.

After a night of clapping along to the music and cheering on the performers, audience members left with a night they won’t soon forget.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” said Sarah Wells, a dance major who attended the event. “It’s great that SF State can offer something like this.”

For more information on Talija’s tour, visit http://www.talija.rs/en/.

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