The 22-year-old Erna Salihu runs a dance studio in Prishtina/Priština, contributes as a researcher on a book writing on positive examples of intercommunity cooperation during the war, plans the first national dance competition for children in Kosovo and participates in projects that focus on interethnic and interfaith cooperation.
In the podcast filmed as part of Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation Activity, she spoke about the benefits of dance, and her personal contribution to cooperation between ethnic communities in Kosovo through dance and other activities.
Over 200 people who have had the opportunity to practice ballet, Pilates, zumba and aerobics have passed through her dance studio “Joy” in recent years. Her youngest students are only 3 years old, and the studio is open to all those who need physical activity, regardless of religious, ethnic or gender identity.
With her team, Erna is planning the first national competition in classical and contemporary dance in Kosovo. It will be organized for the youngest in November, and she hopes that the competition will become a tradition.
She recommends dancing to everyone, stating that it is beneficial and has healing qualities for young people in development, but also for the adults who need to relax after several working hours in the offices. However, she sees a difference in the way her youngest and older students learn. Adults she says, are used to algorithms, first they learn the theory and then the sequence of movements, unlike children:
“They’re just copying moves because kids learn by doing,” (3:32) she says, adding that that’s why kids learn faster.
Erna had the message to everyone that engaging in dance is the same as taking care of one’s own body, and taking care of oneself – dancing releases positive emotions – she stressed.
Erna also warned against gender-based prejudices towards types of dance, especially ballet, which, as she states, male students in her studio often resist because of the mentality, despite the fact that it is a discipline that is extremely difficult and from which a respectable career can be built.
In addition to dancing, Erna also speaks Serbo-Croatian, which is why, as she says, she is able to be a bridge between the Serbian and Albanian communities and which allows her to work with young people from Serbian areas, mostly Gračanica/Graçanicë.
“For example, a book is now being written with stories of Serbs and Albanians from the war about how they helped each other. The book focuses on all communities, but mostly on Serb and Albanian communities. The book will be extraordinary, I am now working on that project as a researcher and something great will come out of it, “(13:09) said Erna, expressing hope that the book will be an inspiration for the region as well.
Erna learned Serbo-Croatian in the family, but she perfected it and uses it regularly because she had a great desire to cooperate with everyone who wants to achieve something good.
“I really consider it lucky to be part of that community in this way.” (14:55)
Like many young people, she met most of her friends from other communities at the activities of non-governmental or international organizations, and she reproaches her generation the most for, as she states, seeing Kosovo as a temporary place of residence.
“We see it as a temporary country before it unites with Albania or until it unites with Serbia. Kosovo is always on hold. It is always on hold until it takes that other shape, while we don’t even try to give it the shape we want. Because we see Kosovo as a temporary place, we believe that our contribution has no value, “(19:11) explained Erna the logic of some young people, but also sent them a message that this is not the case.
She claims, basing that on her own experience, that it is possible to positively influence at least one person, and that that individual achievement will bring results.
“Big changes are not like earthquakes when a change happens suddenly and then it’s very bad or very good from that point onward. They happen through little things, and from those little things something great and sustainable happens later.” (20:15)
Full conversation with Erna is on the following link:
Promo video of the interview is on the following link:
This podcast was recorded as part of Reconciliation and Conflict Transformation Activity implemented by Community Building Mitrovica and partners from New Social Initiative and Youth Initiative for Human Rights Kosovo and supported by the American people through USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Kosovo.