On Sat., Nov. 10, the Connecticut branch of the Vanoush Khanamirian Dance Academy of New York will perform with the sensational sister duo, Inga and Anush Arshakyan—famous in Armenia for their contemporary take on traditional music—at Felician College in Lodi, N.J. The opening act will also include members of the Hamazkayin New Jersey.
The Connecticut-based group has come a long way since its start this past October. In the summer of 2011, Der Gomidas Zohrabian, the pastor of the St. George Armenian Church of Hartford, Conn., requested the help of his long-time friend, Tovmas Harutyunyan, a choreographer at the Vanoush Khanamirian Dance Academy of New York. Zohrabian hoped that Harutyunyan would teach the art of Armenian dance to some of the church’s youngest parishioners, aged 10-14. Harutyunyan makes the two-hour trip from New York to Hartford every week for practices.
Lots of toe-stepping and near-tripping occurs during these Wednesday evening practices in the church basement, but the performers are determined to master their dances, and are excited to perform with the Arshakyan sisters. One of the dancers even revealed that she feared wetting her pants upon meeting the sisters, and freezing up on stage.
In May, the group premiered at the St. George Armenian Church’s annual dance. Dressed in their traditional hand-made costumes straight from the homeland, locking arms and swaying to the music, each and every one of them beamed with sweaty happiness. The audience appeared to be in awe at their passion.
Der Gomidas acknowledges that this activity is a first for the community, but nevertheless, it is successful. In just a few months, the children have grown very close and have become strongly connected to their culture. They are adorably Armenian in every sense of the word; their grandmothers would be proud.
He also affirms that by introducing Armenian dance to his youngest members, he can ensure their active involvement in the Armenian community later in life. “The Armenian heritage is heavy in literature, architecture, painting, and art, but dance specifically is interesting because first of all, they are group dances (shurjpar), so they bring the children together and their Armenian genes are awaken[ed]; they feel a cultural connection to the Armenian ethnicity.”
It is no surprise that these children’s hard work is starting to pay off. In just the past eight months, they have already learned nearly a dozen traditional dances, and have performed in the West Hartford Town Hall and the annual Russian Heritage Festival in New York, in addition to local church events. Their performance alongside the Arshakyan sisters will be their largest yet. In 2010, the Arshakyans placed 10th in the European singing competition, Eurovision. Ever since then, they have toured worldwide, spreading their music to the diaspora communities.
To learn more about their upcoming event, visit www.hyedance.com.