Vahram Hambardzumyan: “We represent a little Armenia abroad through Armenian dances”

Who has never been charmed by performances of world famous Argentine tangos? In Argentina, which is very far away from Armenia, as well as in other countries, talented Armenians have been able to present Armenian and foreign cultures in such a way that even the nationals of those countries have expressed their admiration and amazement and have recognized Armenia through Armenian culture, song and dance.

Within the scope of the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival organized by the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, 47 Armenian dance groups and ensembles of different countries performed on different stages across Armenia. Although the performances were unprofessional, all the dance groups managed to uniquely present Armenian dance, which is one of the major factors that contributes to preservation of the Armenian identity abroad. With their impressive performances, the “Nayiri” and “Masis” Armenian Dance Ensembles of Argentina received not only the endless rounds of applause of the Armenian audiences, but also the Gold Medal, which is the highest award of the Ministry of Diaspora. Established in 1978, ARS Buenos Aires’s “Nayiri” Armenian Folk Dance Ensemble has had different artistic directors, and People’s Artist of the Republic of Armenia Vanush Khanamiryan has also supported the ensemble with his knowledge of classical Armenian dances. Currently, the meritorious dance ensemble is under the direction of dancer of Buenos Aires’s Colon Theater (Teatro Colón) Vahram Hambardzumyan and his wife, dancer Tereza Sargsyan. Mr. and Mrs. Hambardzumyan received their dance education, as well as took their first steps in dancing and grew as dancers in Armenia. They have also been two of the leading dancers of the Alexander Spendiaryan National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. After moving to Buenos Aires years ago, they dedicated themselves to the job they love, continuing the traditions of their previous directors, adding to and enhancing the list of the ensemble’s dances.

During my interview with the dancing couple in the editorial office of Hayern Aysor, I saw and felt how emotional, concerned and excited Vahram and Tereza were about their profession.

Hayern Aysor: Vahram, please tell us about your career and your dance ensemble.

Vahram Hambardzumyan: We have been the directors of “Nayiri” Dance Ensemble for a decade. This is the first time we are performing in Armenia. It was at Yerevan Dance College where we received the required and fundamental knowledge of Armenian dances, and we went on to apply that knowledge successfully. During the years of dancing at the Alexander Spendiaryan National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet and in Buenos Aires, our knowledge and experiences helped us achieve high results. In our field, we don’t and can’t stop. We work, continue to create, seek and find the better and beautiful. When we were still in Yerevan, we established and directed the children’s music theater. In Buenos Aires, we created the “Shirak” Children’s Dance Ensemble. We have reached the point where dance has become a lifestyle, a life and a means of expressing feelings and the national mindset. We represent a little Armenia abroad through Armenian dances. Dance also serves as a way of preserving the Armenian identity.

Hayern Aysor: Do the Argentines know about your dance ensemble? What do the Argentines think about the Armenian dance ensemble?

V. H.: I perform at the Colon Theater (Teatro Colón), which is considered one of the best theaters in the world. The theater granted me an order, asking and inviting us to give a concert with the best professional groups, and I immediately agreed and screamed “yes”. This bound us to give our best performance. Our dancers are not professional dancers, but they can perform at a high level due to their diligence and love for Armenian dances. We rehearsed and performed Azat Gharibyan’s three dances, including “Ver Veri”, “Ilikner” (Spindles) and “Tamzara”. The day after the performances, one of the most notable newspapers wrote that the performances of the Armenian dance ensemble had stunned the audience. The people were so impressed with our performances that the next day, they imitated the moves in the “Ver Veri” dance and tried to copy me by holding their legs, while the girls imitated the “Iliks” (spindles).

Hayern Aysor: What do you do to show better quality?

V. H.: First, we rehearse a lot and work on every detail. We clean the music, follow the quality of the recording and even remove every extra sound that seems insignificant. There was a time when we were collaborating with our friends from the “Gousan” Instruments Ensemble of Cordoba. We gave joint concerts, but later, we started working with recordings. Discipline is also very important for us. If we perform at any concert hall, we need to leave an impression that we are a civilized and wonderful ensemble. We have to leave the backstage ideally neat and clean. We have to make sure foreigners have the best impression of Armenians in everything.

Hayern Aysor: How do you solve the problems with belts, jewels and costumes? Do you manage to choose the clothes and cloths that characterize the given dance and the region in which the dance is presented?

V. H.: We can’t always find the cloth that is appropriate for the shades that we want. So, we often choose different clothes that are almost the same color that we prefer. Of course, it is also hard to solve the problem with jewels. We find masters, look at Lusik Aguletsi’s books, choose the clothes and jewels that characterize the given era and place our orders. The ARS covers all the expenses, and Tereza solves the problem with costumes.

Hayern Aysor: Which adapted and choreographed dances do you mainly perform?

V. H.: We mainly perform Azat Gharibyan’s dances. His choreographies are also very close to our hearts. Both my wife and I praise Gharibyan’s dances and mainly include them in our programs.

Hayern Aysor: The concerts that Armenian dance groups and ensembles give abroad stand out with the traditional “Kochari” and “Berd” Armenian dances that various dancers have choreographed. Which choreographed “Kochari” dance do you perform during your concerts?

V. H. We perform the choreographies of Azat Gharibyan and Gagik Karapetyan. I recently choreographed the “Kochari” dance as well. We have performed the “Berd” dance choreographed by Vanush Khanamiryan and recently his choreography of the “Dance of the Kintos”. We have also performed Ara Gevorgyan’s “Mush” and Gagik Karapetyan’s “Ethnographic Dance”.

Hayern Aysor: I would like to ask Tereza which dance you both like a lot and consider your masterpiece and which dance the ensemble performs well.

Tereza Hambardzumyan: If you noticed, we are fans of Azat Gharibyan’s art. For me, Azat Gharibyan’s “Elegy” and Ara Gevorgyan’s “Aragats” is a masterpiece. These dances can be performed well.

Hayern Aysor: Vahram, is there anything that you would like to add to what Tereza said?

V. H.: The dance ensemble can perform one of the dances well one year and perform another dance the next…As for our preferred creators, I must say that I also prefer Azat Gharibyan. Ara Gevorgyan’s “Mush” is also close to my heart.

Hayern Aysor: You achieved great success during the “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival and received the Gold Award, the highest award of the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia. On that occasion, I congratulate you and wish you more success. May Armenia and the Armenian language, everything about Armenia and the Armenians always be the highest value for your beautiful family and in the hearts of your three children!

V. H.: Thank you for the kind wishes! The Gold Medal that we received is a victory for us and all the members. Most of our dancers were visiting the Homeland for the first time. They will definitely remember their successful performances and the cordial reception, and this will definitely have a great positive impact on their future careers. Thank you, Homeland! Thank you, Ministry of Diaspora!

Interview by Karine Avagyan

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