The Black City Dance

Gold and bright colors long, whirling dresses; trains of and fun - those are the images that the Romani conjure up , stay persistently in our imagination. But Romani culture, especially  in the Czech Republic, which neighbors Poland, is disappearing at  a dizzying pace. We hardly know about this, because the Romani  in almost total  isolation from the rest of society.

Bronx. Hawaii or Parliament - those are the names of  just 1 of the 300 Romani ghettos that exist in the Czech Republic. It is estimated that over 80 000 people live in them, many  of whom exist on the edge of  poverty. Tens of thousands of children live in such conditions.  Most of them attend special schools that isolate them from the rest of  society and  prevent their social advancement.

This year children participating in the Brave Kills project from a socially excluded area in Brno, the second largest City in Czech  Republic. Most of the areas we have mentioned, are ghettos inhabited  by the Slovak Romani, displaced by the Communist authorities after  World War II. Factories, where they had worked, went bankrupt  due to the political transition. Due to growing debts Romani pc couldn't afford their rents and were forced to move to the outskirts cities. Nobody wants to rent them apartments in the center, there there's nothing left tor them but living in a Romani ghetto, seek from the rest of society.

One of  the possibilities to overcome this problem is extra-curricular activity, most of which is based on dancing; Merci group is a youth dance group, which has existed since 2001. Thanks to Monika  Balogova, a dance teacher, MiniMerci group was founded two years ago. It includes children from 3 to 13 years old, who are often siblings of the Merci group dancers. It is they who are members of Brave Kids 2011. Participation in the project is a sort of  award for their regular-practice and the effort they put into training; it is also a rare oppor­tunity for them to meet the Gadjo (in the Romani language Gadjo means nor.-Romani). The children practice in the Zabrdovice center, where classes for young people from the so-called Brno Bronx (by the Romani Kalo Foros - the Black City) are organized. Around ten thousand Romani live there.

According to an Amnesty International report, which was pub­lished in the beginning of 2010, discrimination against Romani chil­dren in Czech Republic continues, despite the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights in 2007. These children represent 80% of pupils in special schools - such a substantial percentage does not exist in any other population. Without education, Romany are not able to get jobs - so they are forced to continue to live in a vicious circle of poverty, in a ghetto reality.

A coaching program in Zabrdovice academy was established for children who are less motivated to learn. The purpose of the MiniMerci dance classes is to attract children to the center. If a child was absent from school, they receive no homework,so, he/she cannot participate in the coaching programme and therefore excluded from attending MiniMerci classes. A system of granting points as a reward for participation in the classes is an additional stimulus - those points can then be later exchanged tor school equipment, which  households often cannot afford.

T[he Petrov Association, which operates in the South Moravia, took care of the MiniMerci group in 2009The main goal of the organization is to the support education and development of young people, with a special emphasis on the effective use of their leisure time. It helps young people prepare themselves to live responsibly in society, from childhood to adulthood.