My Dancing Shoes

Mila Fomina (+Video)


My dancing shoes are an important reminder of my Azerbaijan culture.  They instill pride and self-confidence that through dance and other cultural activities, I can continue to grow and move forward, even when faced with great adversity and challenges.  My shoes and the cultural activities where I wear them remind me that I have a strong community of support and that there is light at the end of each dark tunnel I face.


My dancing shoes remind me of my home country, Azerbaijan. They are the colour of sand, shells and stones on the Caspian shores I used to walk upon as a child. They remind me of the streets in Baku where I would stroll, and the style and patterns of the leather flow like the architecture of the city.  When I wear them, I feel solid and protected.  

The Bow Valley is my second immigration home.  I first moved from Azerbaijan to Dubai, where I lived for almost twenty years.  I took a short work contract as an Administrative Assistant, hoping that the country would be more stable and prosperous than the post-Soviet economy at home, where there were few jobs.  At the time, I was supporting my four-year-old son and my mother. I had only planned to stay for one contract, but soon after, I saw an opportunity to settle there and bring my son to be with me.  I was only able to visit my mother and son every two years. These trips kept me connected with my country.   After I married, my son joined us full time, and we had two more children to complete our family.   In 2017, we moved to Canada for my husband’s work.  

Although my husband adapted easily to the move, it was difficult for me.  I felt insecure as if I were standing alone.  I appeared very different: I dressed formally as the casual dressing in Canmore was foreign to me.   People had difficulty understanding my accent and regularly asked where I was from.  I did not know if I could find work, if I would need to learn new skills, or if my experience was transferable.  I felt lonely, frustrated, and insecure as I searched for belonging in my new community.

When my mother passed away in Dubai, the distance from my home and my culture expanded.  I held on to memories of my mother and wondered if I would ever go back home again.

Then, one day, I connected with a lady on social media, originally from Azerbaijan, living in Calgary.  I was thrilled.  She explained that there was a large group of Azerbaijan citizens who were very active in the community.  

“Do you want your kids to dance our dances?” she asked.   I was speechless!  When my family attended our first event, a flag-raising ceremony at City Hall in Calgary, I could hardly believe my eyes at the size of the group. I felt as though I had returned to Baku.  I was so happy that I could share my culture and traditions with my family.  I joined the club and began to dance. 

The music, movement and costumes from our country have a history stretching back over one hundred years with cultural influences from Iran, Turkey, and the Caucasus. The traditional colours of rich burgundy, green, blue and gold create a tapestry of shapes and colours that come alive with dance movement.  Dance is a part of every celebration in our culture. The colours, movement and music combine to tell the stories of our past.  For me, dance opened a new door, connecting my past with my future. 

As soon as I joined the community group, my feelings grew more optimistic.   We are all volunteers who collaborate on events and performances such as Global Fest, an international festival in Calgary.  There is tremendous team spirit.  We share and celebrate our food, our traditions and, of course, our dances.  Through my dancing shoes, I reached the light at the end of my journey and danced my way back to confidence.  I learned that Canada is multicultural, and all nationalities are welcome.  My new home is a unique place to be!  I feel at home away from home.

MILA FOMINA immigrated to Canada in 2016 with her husband and two daughters. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in the medical field and lived and worked in Dubai before coming to Canada. She is currently getting practical experience in medical office administration in Calgary. Mila loves volunteering in the community, dancing along with her daughters and doing all seasonal activities with her children. Balancing work and her family are important to Mila.

Watch the Performance

More Stories from Canmore 2019