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Gagik Ginosyan -“We Will Dance on the Top of Ararat.”

On my way to meet with Gagik Ginosyan, the founder of the Armenian folk dance ensemble “Karin,” I was thinking about Armenian dance, its spiritual strength and mystery and recalled one of Armenian writer George Emin’s lines: “Sassoun* danced and the whole world realized that this was not only dance, but the history of one brave nation.”

Gagik is an incomparable performer of Armenian national dance. He was born in 1966 in Akhaltsikhe. His ancestors are from the Western Armenian village of Iliche, which was located near Erzurum, or Karin, Turkey. They emigrated from Iliche around 1830 and founded New Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. Gagik always dreamed that one day it would be renamed New Karin. “In my youth, I sometimes shared my thoughts with my favorite dancing teacher Hayrik Mouradian. Once I asked what the difference was between Van, Erzurum and Sassoon. He answered, ‘People from Van are ideal men. People from Sassoon are very spiritual. Both of these are synthesized in the people from Erzurum,’” recalled Gagik, who first learned to dance in Hayrik’s “Van” ensemble.

As part of the ensemble “Akunk,” Gagik participated in the Third International Ethnographic Festival in Italy, in 1996, where the group won “Unique Dance Group” award. Last year, in cooperation with the educational charity Armenian Knight, Akunk released the Armenian dances DVD, which features lessons from Gagik on how to learn the 25 national dances of Armenia. This year the American Embassy in Armenia is expected to issue a more comprehensive DVD that Gagik worked on, which will explain the roots of Armenian dance, the significance of the instruments like the dhol, zurna and the duduk, and its elegant garb.

“Armenian dances have special meaning. For example, vertical movements symbolize the human faith in God. Armenian dances emphasize the psychology of Armenians — their fighting spirit and their quest for love, faith and unity,” Gagik said. The Karin folk ensemble on the last Friday of every month organizes a small dance celebration in Yerevan, near the Cascades. Hundreds gather for this event to learn.

“This is a special holiday, which helps to keep in the heart of each Armenian the hope that we will dance on the top of Ararat,” said Gagik.

Naira Hambardzumyan is one of this year’s Margaret Ajemian Ahnert Journalism Scholars.

*Sassoun is a region in Western Armenia.

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