George Nikolov, of Ventnor Heights, held a long red sash at one end of the Freestyle Dance and Fitness studio while owner Brian Moragne, 35, took the other end and rolled himself towards Nikolov, wrapping the sash tightly around his torso.

The instructors were all dressed in traditional Bulgarian garb that Anelia Shishkova, 31, of Egg Harbor Township, and Freestyle Dance and Fitness instructor, said mimicked the outfits in her home region of Bulgaria.

"Each region of Bulgaria has its own music, and its own look," Shishkova said.

The region that she is from, Trakia, is in a valley close to the center of the country.

"The music is slower and more open," Shishkova said. She explained how the color of her region tends to be red, and each region of Bulgaria has its own culture.

At Freestyle Dance and Fitness in Northfield, Shishkova teaches Bulgarian folk dance classes.

"I used to (dance) for seven years in Bulgaria, and I've been wanting to start a class," Shishkova said. "Even nowadays, there are a lot of people that practice Bulgarian dance."

Sierra Tumolo, 16, of Northfield, joined Shishkova, Moragne and Nikolov for a lesson in Bulgarian dance.

"I'm a student," Tumolo said. "I started with taekwondo, then I started capoeira, and now I'm trying Bulgarian dance. Capoeira is kind of fighting, hidden by dance."

Bulgarian folk dancing, however, has nothing to do with fighting.

"Centuries ago, that's how people used to socialize," Shishkova said. "They would gather in the center square, and it was the main way to flirt, or for a guy to court a girl."

Shishkova, Moragne and Tumolo took hands and Shishkova demonstrated the moves for the first dance, a slow "horo."

Shishkova said the horo was a way for a guy to dance next to a girl he liked. The idea is that a group of dancers would join hands to form a circle and do the same steps over and over.

"You can go slow or fast depending on the music," Shishkova said as the tempo increased. "But the women always have to be light on their feet."

Tumolo said it's impossible for her to pick just one favorite class out of the three she has tried.

She said, "When I was little (my parents) asked, 'do you want to do cheerleading or taekwondo?' I was like, 'taekwondo!'"

Currently, Bulgarian dance classes are on a summer hiatus, but Shishkova hopes they will start back up Sept. 4. The class schedule will be available online prior to the first class.

Bulgarian dance is a way for Shishkova, and the Bulgarian community to remember where they came from.

"It's a way to preserve our culture," she said. "This is all traditional for the Bulgarian community."

Freestyle Dance and Fitness offers a variety of classes that can be found at

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