Yeraz Dance Ensemble Marks 10th Anniversary


BAYSIDE, N.Y. — The 10th anniversary of the Yeraz Dance Ensemble took place before a standing room only, cheering audience at the Queensborough Community College on Sunday afternoon, December 6.

The 90-strong group of dancers ranging in age from 5 to 23, put on a bravura performance of more than 25 numbers which generated such enthusiasm that the capacity audience leapt to its feet at its conclusion, hoping for more.

Dressed in beautiful handmade colorful Armenian costumes, the girls demonstrated their delicate hand and fluid arm movements, and the boys their virile and powerful acrobatics. Their progression as dancers was demonstrated from the youngest to the older performers. They delighted the crowd in the numbers “Shalakho,” “Garden Dance,” the exceptional “Hayotz Yeghnig” and the inspirational “Candle Dance,” which combined both the very young and the older dancers.

Many memorable numbers stood out, including the graceful movements by the females in “Ouzoundara,” “Harsnatsouneri Bar” and “Gagach,” a dance of floating flowers. The interplay between a 6-year-old girl and an older dancer was scintillating in “Illusion,” with both dressed in identical bridal gowns.

The men were not to be outdone. They showed their male prowess in “Hovivner,” “Sardarabad” and “Gindo’s,” a flirtatious number with the men’s attention focused on one female. Among the men, Shant Simonian stood out for his exceptional professionalism and versatility.

Among the most exceptional numbers was “Musa Ler,” outstanding for the fluid body movements and coordination by the twelve men and women, and the modern “Ov Hayotz Ashkhar.” The concluding number, the moving victorious dance Artashat with the whole troupe performing, had the men forming acrobatic towers, and the women complementing them with their typical grace. It virtually brought the house down.

The printed program did not explain the meaning of each dance, but it became fairly apparent during the performance of the numbers. In addition, though the dance steps were somewhat repetitive, and not very different, however there was excellent coordination, and most importantly, vibrant spirit, and great enthusiasm and pride shown by the performers.

Woven into the program were musical numbers by violinist Diana Asilyan, pianist Tigran Dumanyan, and 8-year-old singing sensation Zovinar Aghavian. Her mother, well known soprano Anoush Barclay, had opened the concert with the American and Armenian national anthems. An inspirational poem was also recited by Sona Gevorgyan. Following a lengthy standing ovation by the audience, special star emblems were presented to the 10-year members of the troupe.

The tireless artistic director and founder Karnig Nercessian has been a professional solo dancer who has performed with the Hamazkayin Akh’tamar, AGBU Antranig dance groups, as well as with the Tekeyan Cultural Association of New Jersey, and the New York Hamazkayin Theatrical Group as a talented actor. In 1999, he created the Yeraz Dance Ensemble with fellow Antranig dancer Lena Orangian, starting with only seven or eight dancers who are still in the troupe.

Nercessian announced that in the future, assistant directors Shant Simonian, and Maria Nercessian, two dedicated dancers would take on a more visible role in teaching and leading the group.

Prelacy Vicar General Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, representing Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, who was out of the country, stated that “it was a revelation to see these dedicated dancers who practice diligently every week. How moving it is for those who dream and see their dreams come to fruition, and even dream for more,” he said congratulating the St. Sarkis Church parish priest Rev. Nareg Terterian, and the Parish Council.

Addressing the performers, Tanielian urged them to “preserve your Armenian song and dance, so that Armenian blood can flood the future, and so that our victims of the Genocide, and the earthquake can look down with pride on your achievements. We are here, we will remain and we will increase,” he declared emotionally.