From August 28 through September 1, 2019, in a summer house in Halkidiki, Greece, the first master class for Armenian dance groups took place under the auspices of Archbishop Kegham Khatcherian, prelate of the Armenian Diocese of Greece, organized by the Hamazkayin Thessaloniki “Ghazaros Sarian” Chapter Executive Board in cooperation with the Armenian Relief Society Thrace & Macedonia Regional Executive Board and the Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board of Greece.
More than fifty young people participated. From the Athens “Nayiri” Dance Group, Edgar Egian (instructor), Nektaria Mikhayilidu, Vartuhi Mikhayilidu, Zhaneta Unanian, Mari Dangurian; from the Thessaloniki “Massis” Dance Group, Rafayel Vartazarian (instructor), Artyur Boghosian, Harut Boghosian, Norayr Isagulian, Hrach Tavtian, Armen Isagulian, Avedis Avedisian, Roza Areyian, Anahid Karaoghlanian, Ani Kalsdian, Raysa Arutinova, Anzhela Krikorian, Vahak Nigoghosian, Alina Matosian, Marina Garabedian, Zakharias Koloniaris, Hayg Cheminian, Anna Mnatsaganian, Marianna Dzadinian; from the Komotini “Urartu” Dance Group, Ruzanna Zohrabian (instructor), Susanna Zohrabian, Kurken Rafayelian, Kristina Kilinkaridu, Khrisa Kilinkaridu, Iliana Kilinkaridu, Hamlet Ghazarian, Aleksandra Afrigian, Antranig Afrigian, Melina Sanamian, Aris Afrigian, Yeorghos Kilinkaridis, Nelli Kozmidu, Anna Kozmidu; from Romania’s “Vartavar” Dance Group, Bela Mardigian (instructor), Meline Javadian, Marine Perikhanian, Siranoysh Hovagimian, Ardag Hovagimian, Samvel Garabedian, Nare Garabedian, Inesa Tumaniants, Henrig Tumaniants, Harut Kaplanian; and from Bulgaria’s “Noor” Dance Group, the soloist Srpuhi Melkonian.
Anahit Saribekyan of the UNESCO-affiliated International Dance Council ran the master class. The class was dedicated to the memory of Hovsep Barazian, deceased two months ago, who had been chairperson of the Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board. The prelate was present for the program. With the prelate’s consent, Very Rev. Sdepanos Pashayan, Very Rev. Hovhannes Saghdejian, and Very Rev. Ardavazt Sharoyian also participated in the class, contributing spiritual and cultural insights.
Running the program over the course of five days was Father Saghdejian. As a young priest, he was able to relate to the participants. The daily routine was reveille, exercise, flag raising, breakfast, educational and moral instruction, lectures, beach time, lunch, rest, dance practice, dinner, party with Armenian dancing, and so on.
The prelate also spent time every day talking about culture, national belonging and identity, responsibility, the mission of the church, connection, and loyalty; he inspired participants to maintain their ties to the church and Armenian organizations and clubs, and to dedicate their youthful energy to the maintenance and perpetuation of the nation.
Day of Farewell and Dance Groups’ Closing Ceremony
August 31 was the day of farewell. In the morning, the prelate and very reverend fathers held a brief church ceremony at the summer house chapel. Two buses full of guests from Thessaloniki and Komotini and many private cars arrived to participate in the luncheon, featuring khorovadz, and in the closing ceremony.
At 8 p.m., the program began. Present were the prelate and reverend fathers, delegates to the National Representative Assembly, members of the Diocesan Council, the A.R.F. Central Committee, the A.R.F. Thessaloniki Committee, the Armenian National Committee, the Armenian Relief Society Thrace & Macedonia Regional Executive Board, the Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board of Greece, the Hamazkayin Thessaloniki “Ghazaros Sarian” Chapter Executive Board, the Armenian Relief Society “Ani” Chapter, the Homenetmen, the A.R.F. “Soghomon Tehlirian” Youth Organization of Thessaloniki, the Komotini Cultural Association, the Thessaloniki and Komotini church councils, and others.
The prelate opened the program. He welcomed everyone to the summer house, evoked memories of past days there, and called on young people to prove that they would carry the banner of Armenian life. The chairperson of the A.R.S. Regional Executive Board, Gioula Kassapian, and the chairperson of the Hamazkayin Regional Executive Board, Diruhi Ghalilea-Kalfayian, spoke.
The prelate bestowed certificates on each dance group member through their instructors. He said, “This property, this summer house, has a mission to give young people Armenian national spirit and pride. We need these things like we need water and bread. This summer house belongs to all. The summer house cannot stop and did not stop and with the help of all of you will continue its struggle in the name of our national and spiritual values.” The prelate praised all who worked to make the master class possible, and especially the great Hamazkayin family and the executive board of the Thessaloniki chapter; he also thanked the Armenian Relief Society and all the volunteers. He praised the dancers, who came and got to know each other, improved their knowledge and skills as dancers, as well as their confidence. The prelate praised Ms. Saribekyan, who taught the master class and her pedagogy.
Each dance group performed Armenian and traditional dances. The groups also came together for one joint dance at the conclusion of the program.
The purpose of the master class was to improve the knowledge and skills of the dance groups, bring the young people together to create community and connections in an Armenian setting. The plan is to make this master class an annual program.
The program showed that the A.R.S. Halkidiki Summer House continues to serve as an ideal place to convey Armenian values and connections to the new generation. It underlines the need to maintain the summer house at any cost.