Mariana Paunova is a native of the Rhodope region of Bulgaria who immigrated to Brazil in 1998. Since childhood Mariana was in close touch with the music, dance, and cultures of various ethnic groups in Bulgaria and other Balkan countries. She started learning Bulgarian traditional dance at an early age and participated in several student dance groups.
Mariana graduated in Slavic Philology and Italian Philology from the University of Sofia "Sv. Kliment Ohridski", and earned a Masters' degree in the studies of language, literature and culture of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Later, at the university, she deepened her studies in ethnology and folklore areas, conducting research into sacred symbolism of the dance and its role in rituals and religious practices. She also participated in numerous seminars in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Macedonia.
Since she has been living in Brazil, her encounters with other dance forms (known in Brazil as Danças Circulares) have led her to further discoveries and also to studies with other Balkan dance teachers.
Mariana led and managed the project that published Peter Deunov's "Paneurhythmy" into book and compact disc form in Brazil. This practice of "Paneurhythmy" has provided her with a different approach to ethnic dance, and has enriched her knowledge about the poly-functionality of the circle dance as a universal tool for human spiritual growth.
Because of her love of the complexity and richness of expression of the rhythms of the Balkan region, she has developed a passion for disseminating authentic dances and popular cultures of various Balkan peoples. Mariana teaches regular classes and participates in workshops and festivals all over Brazil and Latin America, and she has organized folk dance tours around the Balkans.
Since 2014, Mariana has developed specialties based on traditional dances, and ancestral knowledge, practices and rituals, collectively known as "Faces and Phases of the Feminine" and "Heritage." She regularly leads women's groups and workshops about these practices and is the Founder of "Movimento Melissas" in Brazil a women's movement for self-development, ancestral knowledge, dancing, drumming, and singing.