Lately I came across these words of sculptor Zaven Khdeshian in Hamazkayin’s Pakin literary journal: “A true work of art shakes the beholder in a mere tenth of second.” Over the weekend of 22–23 June, 2019, the Hamazkayin “Artsakh” Dance School and “Erepuni” Dance Ensemble held their annual performance. The dances were staged wonderfully. The movements were harmonious and synchronized. The costumes were rich. The music, lighting, and decor were coordinated. Thus, from the first split second, the viewer’s thoughts and spirits took flight toward beauty and gentle creation.
The red velvet curtain separates us from the next moment. The lights dim, the side conversations go quiet, and all at once the cymbals clash and the sounds of “Yerevan-Erebuni” fill the hall. It hits me in the gut. While the music continues, heads turn toward the back. Through both doors of the Hamazkayin theater, girls in pomegranate costumes are entering, bearing candleholders in both hands. The curtains open gently to reveal the logo of the Erepuni dance ensemble and banners depicting stone sculptures. The smooth and radiant steps on the stage transport us to the homeland of light. And we hear the zurna. It is Ara Kevorkian’s Artdashad, inviting Erepuni to dance, coming forward with joyful and confident movements, assuring us once more that “nothing will defeat the old nation that knows to dance with such toil and such will.”
Maria Karageozian, on behalf of the Hamazkayin Toronto Chapter Executive Board, says words of welcome. Then Group A of the younger students of the Artsakh dance school begin their performance. The “chicks” awaken from their slumbers, wearing yellow skirts, taking synchronized, tiny steps, moving their fingers, and with their smiling eyes, capture our hearts. Then the older group. The “cranes,” led by their mother crane, make gentle motions with their fingers, take smooth steps, and occupy the stage. I recall Emin: “whichever way you looked, you dug it.”
Next up is Group C of the younger students. The “Kintos” are bold, wrapped in ornate raincoats; their steps are joyful and their faces are expressive. After the “Kintos,” violinist Hovhannes Mubayed greets us with “Black Eyes” greet us. The memories burst open and we travel to the dream world of “Husher” alongside the Erepuni and Artsakh older girls, who perform superbly. From Erepuni, David Manoukian and Hrag Karamardian perform “Zurni Drnki” with staccato movements. For a moment we leave the Armenian world; longtime Erepuni member Lana Der Bedrossian is on the stage and her lively Spanish dancing impresses the audience.
With radiant faces, Group B of the younger students takes the stage. They promise a florid “Karun” (Spring). Warmed up by the spring sun, what can we relate to the most if not our “Kochari”? Erepuni is back on stage. With masculine moves, girls and boys shake the hall, and the applause at the end shakes it further. The scent of spring continues with the gentle presentation of “Paleni” (Sour cherry tree). Teen Group B is up now, with red, florid costumes the proud sour cherry tree grabs the attention of the audience. Then the older group performs the celebratory “Donagan bar” and brings celebratory joy to the hall. The solo performers in “Davigh,” Vanie Yaacoubian, Mariya Manoukian, and Lana Der Bedrossian are glorious. The staging is so tasteful and delicate, we are awed.
Teen Group A generates joy with “Gadag bar” and continues it with “Sureru bar,” performed by Mr. Mubayed. Soon, we are in the land of Mogs, its brides, “Mogats harser” come out. With a weighty and regal look, proud eyes, and miraculously beautiful costumes, the older girls of Erepuni and Artsakh take the stage. Rubina Sarkisian has a solo. The music ramps up with the ever-popular “Shalakho.” The soloist is Meghedi Gosdanian, covered in vortan red. In “Akhltskha” too we see the proud and determined Armenian woman, in a velvet costume, with restrained movements, performed by Mariya Manoukian on Saturday and Ms. Der Bedrossian on Sunday. We go now from Javakhk (which encompasses Akhltskha) to heroic Karabagh, where the Erepuni boys and soloist Dzila Kourjakian, wearing a velvet, gold-embroidered costume, conveys the spirit of Artsakh (Karabagh) to the audience.
With Ms. Karageozian’s closing words, the program comes to an end. One hundred thirty dancers come on stage and receive warm applause. The members of Erepuni receive special appreciation. Audience members are on their feet.
Behind any successful initiative there are hard-working hands, of course. In this instance, the executive board representative, the dance committee, the supervisors of the various groups, and the stage crew all deserve thanks. A special thank you goes to the artist Ara Ter Haroutunian, who was responsible for set design.
There is probably much that can be written about the talented, accomplished dance instructor, artistic director, and director Nelly Karapetyan, to whom we are indebted for the success of this high-quality performance. Her firm and unwavering commitment to high quality is plain to see. One of the qualities of the adroit teacher is her ability to bring out the best in her students. Faced with all the congratulations, she can modestly say, “I did nothing.” She means this is the first step, and having enjoyed the early fruits, we can await much more.
Tamar Donabedian- Kuzuian