By Hagop Vartivarian
LODI, N.J. — This year our community and most all of its organizations commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in their own unique way. Among them was NJ’s Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble of the A.A.S.E.C. (The Armenian American Support and Education Center). In August, Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble traveled to Armenia and Karabagh, and performed in Gumri, Stepanakert and Yerevan, dedicating their performances to the Centennial of the Genocide. Following the success of their trip they treated the New Jersey community to a two-hour program dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with guest performers Kevork Artinian, Ara Dinkjian and Vicken Makoushian.
The dance group is made up of 70 dancers, performing gracefully together to present an array of traditional, popular and new dances.
The ensemble’s director and choreographer, Sylva Asadourian, was a dancer herself and has successfully passed on the love of Armenian dance to her dancers. Her hard work and dedication was rewarded by the almost to capacity crowd at Felician College, which holds more than 1,000 spectators, on Sunday, October 4, despite the community being overscheduled this month.
The program, titled “Rebirth and Triumph,” presented a nationalistic picture, mirroring the community’s feelings and emotions. It was with pride that we watched this young generation, of mostly Istanbul-Armenian parents, present the love of their culture and heritage through Armenian dance and song. It was beautiful to see that our culture and traditions are being preserved so strongly.
The program included traditional favorites such as “Moush,” “Akh’tamar,” “Housher” and some more popular ones such as “Menk Enk Mer Sarere” and “Hayastani Yerke.” These gracefully choreographed dances and songs all played beautifully to our emotions. And, in the second half, our “Triumph” was evident with dances like “Zart
ir Lao” and “Celebration.”
The program also included three non-Armenian folk dances, all from regions that are close to our people and culture: Russian, Georgian and Greek. These three dances added to the versatility and agility of the group.
Performing with the Ensemble was singer Kevork Artinian, with Ara Dinkjian on oud and Vicken Makoushian on keyboards. They presented an array of nationalistic, traditional and popular songs to the delight of the audience. The selection of songs were such that emote feelings of nostalgia among Armenians, favorites like “Yerevan Erepouni,” “Kele Lao,” “Azk Parabants” and “Hzor Hayastan”. These classics have become part of our national repertoire and are known by all. This was evident when the audience started to sing with Artinian and danced in the aisles. This created a very festive and joyous atmosphere!
Congratulations to the entire Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble’s committee, under the leadership of Zivart Gulian and participation of Nivart Arslan, Talin Cinar, Rita Ghichlian, Maral Kilerciyan Kalishian, Jenny Korogluyan, Talin Purut and Talar Sesetyan Sarafian.
It is also noted that the program remembered and honored the memory of Sylva Asadourian’s mom, Marie Kantardjian, who passed away recently. Marie Kantardjian has had a tremendous effect on the group. Her countless hours of dedication to the ensemble and especially to the creation of the costumes over the years was remembered and honored in the booklet.
The audience left Felician College with a renewed sense of Armenian nationalism and pride.
(Translated from Armenian)