Stojanka Kostova Karakitukova ("Tanya") is from the Plovdiv area of Western Thrace in Bulgaria. She developed her passion for traditional music and dance from her family, especially from her maternal grandmother, Stojana, one of the four leading singers in Paniceri, a village in the Sredna Gora region. Tanya spent much of her childhood and every vacation with her grandmother, who imbued Tanya with a feeling and appreciation for the songs, customs, and dances of that area.
Tanya received her diploma from the prestigious Technical High School of Civil Engineering in Plovdiv in 1974 (which just happened to have one of the best student dance ensembles in Bulgaria). Her love of dance finally won out when she was accepted into the Academy of Music and Dance Arts in Plovdiv. She became one of the original members and a soloist for eight years with the State Folk Ensemble Trakija where she developed her interest in, and love for, Rhodope dance and music.
Tanya received her Masters Degree in Choreography, Stage Directing, and Educational Arts from the Academy in 1979. In 1982, she began her career as a choreographer and researcher in the field of Bulgarian folklore and dance.
From 1982 to 1989, she was the Artistic Director of the Representative Performing Dance Group at the Regional Cultural Center in Plovdiv and a chief Choreographer and Educational Advisor at the Regional Center of Arts for Children. She also designed and directed a successful four-year experimental educational program for the inclusion of dance in the curriculum of grades 1 through 8. The Ministry of Education adopted her program, establishing dance as a part of the Official Academic Curricula for the first time. As a result, Bulgarian folk dance now has a growing place in the curricula of many schools throughout the country.
In 1989, Tanya returned to Ensemble Trakija as Ballet Master and as a member of the Board of Artistic Directors.
From 1991 to 1995 Tanya studied journalism at the University of Sofia, directed a wide variety of large and small dance, music, and fashion programs and events, was Guest Choreographer at Plovdiv's Theatre of Drama, was a lecturer at the University of Plovdiv, and wrote for Bulgarian National Television and the Plovdiv newspapers. In addition to all of this, she continued her fieldwork, with special attention to the songs, dances, costumes, and customs of the Rhodopes, Trakija, and the Sredna Gora region, and in the folklore and culture of the Bulgarian Gypsies and other minorities. During her fieldwork, she worked with many interesting individuals and groups who still knew the old traditions, songs, and dances. All of these activities enabled her to work with some of the best singers, dancers, and musicians in Bulgaria.
From 1994 to 1995, just prior to moving to the United States, she was the Stage Director and Head Choreographer for the Youth Folk Ensemble Orpheus in Smoljan. She created a new repertoire and program for the 25th Anniversary Concert of the Ensemble, in which 170 children from 6 to 17 years of age performed.
At the California Kolo Festival in 1997, she presented dances containing material collected during her most recent research in the Rhodopes, Thrace, and Sredna Gora regions of Bulgaria. In 1998, she taught authentic Bulgarian dances at Yves Moreau's week-long 50th Birthday celebration in Hawaii. In addition, she has taught at various venues throughout California.