Avedis Dance Company: A smithy for preservation of the tradition of Armenian ethnography

Hayern Aysor has covered the newly created Avedis Children’s Dance Company of Athens which, in spite of its short existence, has already become popular not only within the Armenian community of Greece, but also out of the circles of the community.

Avedis Children’s Dance Company also participated in the 3rd “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora this year.

In an interview with Hayern Aysor, the dance company’s artistic director and dance instructor Shoushanig Semerjian said the children became more connected to Armenia after their performance at the festival and want to participate in the festival again.

Shoushan Semerjian is an alumnus of the Republican Center for Artistic Creations at the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Armenia and a second class dance instructor/pedagogue. She is also a member of the International Dance Council.

Currently, Shoushan is taking training courses in the Faculty of Dance at the Armenian State Pedagogical University after Khachatur Abovyan in Yerevan.

The director of the dance company is Shoushan’s husband, Karen Hakobyan, who always helps his wife solve any problem with organization.

 The goal of the dance company is to spread good news in Armenia and the Diaspora

Settling in Greece, Shoushan decided to carry out activities aimed at preserving the Armenian identity by introducing Armenian children to national values. In 2013, she established a dance company in Athens in order to help disseminate Armenian culture. The goal of the dance company is to help Armenian children learn as much as they can about Armenian ethnography.

According to Shoushan, even though there are Armenian schools in Athens and the community actively carries out programs for national preservation, in any case, the children grow up with a different psychology since the foreign environment has an impact on them.

In the beginning, the dance instructor started rehearsing with one child, who was her niece. Over time, the company grew.

The dance company was named “Avedis” (good news in Armenian) since the goal is to spread good news and create a good mood in Armenia and abroad. The company includes children from not only Armenia, Lebanon and Syria, but also child members of the Greek-Armenian community.

Avedis is a member of the UNESCO International Dance Council

Today, Avedis has 35 members. The concerts for the Greeks and the Greek-Armenians have helped the dance company grow.

However, there is a lack of boys. Since girls make up the majority, the dance instructor assigned them to sew clothes with the elements of Armenian national costumes on modern dolls in order to motivate them and introduce them to the origins of the nation. Using their imagination, the girls prepared clothes symbolizing the costumes of Armenian colonies that were later presented.

The dance company is supported by the Armenian Catholic Church of Athens, one of the halls of which has been provided to the dance company to rehearse twice a week.

The dance company is also a member of the UNESCO International Dance Council.

Avedis considers its participation in the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival a major achievement

For the first time, the dance company participated in the 3rd “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora with six female dancers. After reading the announcement of the Ministry, all the members unanimously decided to visit Armenia in order to participate in the cultural event.

Shoushan Semerjian stated that before visiting Armenia, everyone was excited and rehearsed with a high sense of responsibility so that they could perform properly in the Mother Homeland.

The directors and dancers of the dance company were very content with the days that they spent during the festival and that they have memories that they will always share with each other. They were especially impressed with the performances in the provinces.

During the festival, the dance company was lucky enough to perform in Artsakh and the Vayots Dzor Province. The visit to Artsakh had an impact on everyone. They remembered the four-day Artsakh war caused by Azerbaijan’s military operations, got emotional and performed with that emotional state.

The children didn’t miss anything in Artsakh. They picked flowers from the area near the monument called We and Our Mountains  and took the flowers with them as a memory.

One of the girls of the dance company kept telling her dance instructor that she liked Armenia a lot and didn’t want to return to Athens.

The bond between Avedis and Armenia became stronger through the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival. The dance company has already decided to participate with more members in the 2018 “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival.

The three-year history of Avedis

In 2014, Avedis participated in the International Bollywood Dance Festival and the Emilia Ethnographic Dance Festival organized by the Dora Stratu National Greek Theater. That same year, Avedis participated in the conference of the UNESCO International Dance Council with the title “The Entrance and Culture of the Armenians in Greece”, and in 2015, it received an award and a special certificate as the youngest and courageous dance company at the Rhythms of the World Festival held by the Russian Culture Home.

During the event organized by the Romanian Culture Home, the members of Avedis presented ancient Armenian customs and dances, for which it received a certificate from the Ambassador of Romania.

In April 2015, the dance company participated in the solo concert/event entitled “The Living”, which was dedicated to the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. It presented history, recitation and dances. Among the attendees were representatives of the local Armenian community, foreign artists, cultural figures and guests. That same year, the directors of the dance company held a lecture/seminar entitled “Armenian National Instruments, National Costumes and Dances” in the Department for Lectures at the Greek National Theater and received a diploma and certificate of appreciation from ethnographer, expert in Greek national dances Marighula Krittsioti. In October, the dance company received an invitation to participate in a big concert dedicated to the Armenian genocide and the genocide of Pontiac Greeks and organized by the Ministry of Culture of Pontiac Greeks and received a certificate and award.

Avedis has also given a charity concert at the Armenian nursing home in Athens. In the summer of 2015, it participated in the conference of the UNESCO International Dance Council again, and the title was “The Armenian Genocide and its Impact on Armenian Culture and Cultural Heritage”. During the concert held as part of the conference, the dance company performed the dances of Vaspurakan with the title “The Past is Still Making Noise”, as well as showed samples of Armenian national handmade work and sculpting, miniature paintings and more.

Avedis Children’s Dance Company not only performs Armenian national dances, but also tries to transmit information about Armenian language, history and traditions to Armenian children and the world through different kinds of events.

Shoushanig Semerjian and Karen Hakobyan plan on opening a cultural center where they will organize not only dance courses, but also courses devoted to Armenian songs and national instruments and invite artists from Armenia. The center will also showcase Armenian national costumes and embroidery.

By Gevorg Chichyan

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