We’ve all heard the term “forbidden love,” but what about love that gets you hauled into court? That’s what happened to Aleksandra Vargas’ mother back home in Soviet Russia, all because she dared to marry a Dominican man. Marrying someone from another country was against the law, so Alexsandra’s mother was put on trial and expelled from the Communist Party. Meanwhile, her father was subjected to frequent racist attacks. The situation got too much for the family to bear, and they fled to America when Alexsandra was 5 years old.
It took several attempts – including a failed effort to escape through what was then known as Czechoslovakia – but once she and her parents had settled in the United States, Alexsandra flourished. Her path as a professional, classically trained vocalist included teenage enrollment in New York’s Juilliard School Pre-College Division and a bachelor’s Degree in vocal performance from SUNY Purchase. After a family move to Central Florida, she earned her master’s degree in music from Florida State University, and has since gone on to perform roles with prestigious companies like Orlando Opera, St. Petersburg Opera, Mad Cow Theatre and the Imperial Symphony Orchestra of Lakeland. She also performs more contemporary styles and appears as a singer on ice with Rosstyn Iceshows during the Christmas season.
Living in Central Florida, she’s found numerous ways to immerse herself in our community while maintaining a connection to the Slavic and Latino heritages she still values deeply. A fluent Russian speaker, she’s hoping to instill an appreciation of her dual ethnic background in her own daughter, while presenting it to the world via her participation in groups like the Russian-American Community of Central Florida and the Russian American Club of St. Petersburg, Florida. She also sings in the group Kalinka Folk, performing authentic Russian music and educating audiences about the country’s traditional sounds and instruments.
As a sideline, she sells traditionally inspired clothing and heritage costumes through her online store, Folkloric Chique. Making costumes and sewing clothing is yet another pet pursuit of hers, along with creating folk-inspired art like sculptures, paintings and traditional Russian women’s headdresses.
That’s a lot of cultural outreach for one person, but she doesn’t show any signs of stopping: Her latest venture in a nonprofit organization called Musical Traditions, which will offer free outdoor performances in genres not commonly heard in central Florida, like Klezmer, tango and Roma.
“I love living in Central Florida because I feel like it is here that I have found a close-knit community to belong to,” she says, “from the professional relationships I have made with local musicians to the friendships I have formed over the years I lived here. Some of my biggest milestones in life happened here. Central Florida is where I met and married my husband, and it is also where our daughter was born.” No wonder she seems so intent on giving back.