The America for Bulgaria Foundation approved 15,000 levs in funding for Maryan Ballet Academy to continue their scholarship program, supported for nearly ten years by the late Ambassador James Pardew and his wife Kathy with personal donations. The scholarship will be named after the spouses and will cover the training of several talented Bulgarian participants at the summer academy each year. The Foundation’s grant will be for a period of five years.
“Several years ago, at Jim’s encouragement, I attended the gala closing event and was moved by the talent and enthusiasm of the young participants and by the local citizens’ warm welcome. The Academy and the Pardews’ legacy exemplify what America for Bulgaria stands for: the power of entrepreneurship and philanthropy towards strengthening local communities, providing opportunities for Bulgarians, and unlocking local potential,” said ABF President Nancy Schiller in relation to the approval of the scholarships.
Founded in 2011 by prima ballerina and associate professor Dilyana Nikiforova and Kapka and Grisha Roglev, Maryan Ballet Academy will be held on August 1–15 this year. For beginner ballet dancers, the summer academy is a unique opportunity to be trained by the best in the art of ballet in Bulgaria.
Maryan is the birthplace of the prima ballerina’s grandfather and father. With the help of colleagues and the local government, the Balkan village of Maryan and the region have for ten years now been enjoying world-class ballet, with performances attracting tourists from all over the country and abroad and contributing to the development of local communities.
Nearly 60 participants receive ballet training every year at the community centers of the neighboring villages of Maryan, Ruhovtsi, and Kostel. Apart from the young participants, guest artists from the Sofia Opera and Ballet take part in the performances. Children from Burgas, Varna, Sofia, Veliko Tarnovo, Plovdiv, Ruse, Gorna Oryahovitsa, Dimitrovgrad, Svilengrad, Elena, Shumen, Pleven, and Kipilovo have participated in the academy. In previous editions, there were participants from abroad, too, namely the US, the UK, and Italy. Around 80% of Maryan Academy graduates continue their education at some of the most prestigious ballet schools in Bulgaria and abroad. Participants from the first cohort are now professional dancers, and some will help with the training this year.
“Maryan Ballet Academy is a private initiative of professional enthusiasts. There is nothing more gratifying for us than providing opportunities for young talents to pursue their dreams, but also to show that we do not need a shiny stage to develop as professionals and as a society,” Professor Nikiforova says.
The scholarships will be named after James and Kathy Pardew because of the couple’s dedicated support for the academy over the years. The spouses were also longtime patrons of the Sofia Opera and Ballet and supported many other art initiatives and artists in Bulgaria. In 2002, the couple helped initiate and generously supported the renovation of Sofia’s signature Doctors’ Garden Park, featuring monuments and an open-air archeological exhibit. Thanks to Kathy’s quiet persistence and tireless efforts, a number of orphanages and nursing homes received makeovers as well. Moreover, throughout her husband’s tenure in Bulgaria, in 2002–2005, she was involved in many initiatives that helped raise awareness of women’s breast cancer issues.
“This is a beautiful country full of potential—that’s why we keep coming back,” Ambassador Pardew had once summed up their continued involvement in Bulgaria. Ambassador Pardew passed away in June this year.