Unique Dance-Drama Performance to Premiere in October

NEW YORK—“It’s my artistic vision of being Armenian. I’m expressing my deep love towards my culture, and honoring my parents,” said internationally recognized dancer and choreographer Anahid Sofian, with obvious emotion.

Sira Melikian and Carlos Fittante. (Photo credit Jeremy Haik)

Sofian, an acclaimed specialist in dances of the Near and Middle East who has performed with her dance company in some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls, is referring to her forthcoming drama-dance project “Passage Through Light and Shadows,” which will be performed at New York’s off-Broadway Theatre of St. Clements Episcopal Church, located at 423 West 46th Street, from Oct. 21-31.

She has been hatching this ambitious project for the last 10 years. “It’s an ethos of the Armenian people, their culture, history, religion, arts, and folklore,” she explained during a recent interview with this writer. “I’m doing this because I’m Armenian, and love my people. I have single Armenian dances in my repertory, but this is an entire show. I want to do it before it’s too late.”

The project includes the professional efforts of several well known artists, including guest choreographer Gagik Karapetian of the Armenian State Ensemble; associate director Jeffrey Lewonczyuk of the Brick Theatre; consultant Joyce Tamesian-Shenloogian, artistic director of the Antranig Dance Ensemble; scenic designer Joseph Spirito of the Castillo Theatre/All Stars Project; lighting designer Kate Ashton; and, videographer Jeremy Haik of the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Born to genocide survivors

Anahid Sofian was born to genocide survivors, mother Berjouhi Minassian who as a five-year old was in a Catholic orphanage in Istanbul, and father Vahram Sofian who as a young boy was sent to the Syrian desert, buried his mother, and saw his whole family killed. After escaping the death march, her father lived in the Mesopotamian desert as a 15-year old for three years. “He never spoke of his horrific experiences or of his mother’s death during the genocide.”

Marrying in New York, her parents set up a Mom-and-Pop store working around the clock to support their two young daughters. “Both my parents were very artistic,” she recalled. Sofian hopes to translate the countless published poems of her father. “The values of this performance are autobiographical and universal, because it’s about survival, endurance, identity, and transcending extreme adversity,” Sofian explained. “It’s a celebration of Armenian culture and history, and is meant to raise public awareness.”

Funds needed

But like all ambitious artistic projects, funds are needed to stage this inspiring and professional endeavor. As a project of “The Field,” a non-profit arts organization that serves the arts community, donations are tax deductible and are being sought from individuals and corporate sponsors.

Sofian has a professional career spanning four decades. Though she began her career as a trained modern and ballet dancer, a knee injury in California stopped her classical dancing. Moving back to New York, she began folk dancing. Concurrently, she worked as an editorial associate for the Saturday Review Magazine.

A visit to a Greek nightclub inspired her into pioneering the intricacies of oriental dance, which she started teaching in 1972. She took this art form to mainstream venues, including the Museum of Modern Art, the United Nations, the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, the Uris Theatre on Broadway, and the Dick Cavett Show on ABC television.

In 1979, she formed the Anahid Sofian Dance Company which has performed at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Town Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Lincoln Center Library of the Performing Arts. She still teaches a full range of classes from beginner to professional at her studio, located at 29 West 15th Street, and does special workshops at New York University, the New School, and Hunter College.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.childrenofararat.net or email sofiana@tiac.net.

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