A Woman of the World: Armen Ohanian, the “Dancer of Shamakha” published

FRESNO, Calif. — The Armenian Series of The Press at California State University, Fresno has announced the publication of its 16th volume, A Woman of the World: Armen Ohanian, the “Dancer of Shamakha,” by Vartan Matiossian and Artsvi Bakhchinyan.

A Woman of the World is a fascinating chronicle of the life of dancer and author Armen Ohanian (1888-1976). She was a well-educated woman born in an Armenian family in the Caucasus and fluent in half a dozen languages — truly a “Woman of the World,” who lived through times and places as diverse as the Russian Caucasus, the Iranian Constitutional Revolution, the Belle Époque in France, the Roaring Twenties in the United States, the early Soviet Union, and ended her days in Mexico after living an eventful life cloaked in mystery. She bridged multiple cultures as an actress in the Caucasus, a theater director in Persia, a writer in France and a translator in Mexico. Above all she was an acclaimed dancer from Asia to Africa, from Europe to America with the monikers “dancer of Shamakha” and “the Persian dancer.” Mounting on a wave of Near and Far Eastern dances sweeping the West, she belonged to a category of dancers that conceived of choreographies nurtured by their culture of origin.

Ohanian became a model for painters and sculptors, and many famous contemporaries left testimony of her in their correspondence, memoirs and reminiscences. Her life across borders, languages and cultures — she wrote in four languages, Armenian, Russian, French and Spanish — and her works were published in no less than 14 countries — highlights some of the elements that are intertwined with the concept of diaspora: transnationalism, multilingualism, multiculturalism and a multifaceted understanding of homeland.

This collaborative project has brought into fruition two decades of research, with a preliminary book in Armenian (2007) that now has doubled in scope and wealth of information. Using an enormous variety of archival and printed sources in many languages, the authors offer in this 450-page biography new insights into Oriental dance, cultural studies, gender studies, diaspora studies and other subjects to scholars and readers in general.

Matiossian is a historian and literary scholar with a broad range of interests in Armenian classical and modern culture. He has published extensively in Armenian, Spanish and English, including eight books, almost two dozen translations and several edited volumes. He is currently the executive director of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Church in New York.

Bakhchinyan is a scholar specializing in the history of the Armenian Diaspora and culture, as well as a writer and translator. He is the author, editor and translator of some twenty books, and a frequent contributor to journals and periodicals in Armenian, Russian and English, including the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, for which he writes a weekly arts interview column. He is a researcher at the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia (Yerevan).

The Armenian Series at California State University, Fresno was established through the generous support of the M. Victoria Karagozian Kazan and Henry S. Khanzadian Kazan Endowment. Prof. Barlow Der Mugrdechian is the general editor of the series.

A Woman of the World: Armen Ohanian, the “Dancer of Shemakha is available through the NAASR bookstore; the Armenian Prelacy Bookstore or Abril Books.

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