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Antranig Dance Ensemble Performs Extensively in 2006

We've all seen images of pages flying off a calendar, one day after another, one month after another. That's what 2006 seemed like for the members of the AGBU Antranig Dance Ensemble. Between high-profile shows and church and community group performances, there’s rarely time to reflect on events before another one pops up on the schedule. But if you’ve been wondering, here’s what our year was like.

If asked what the highlight of their year was, the Antranig dancers would probably tell you it was their performance in Providence, Rhode Island at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Armenian Chorale of Rhode Island. As the featured performers in the second half of a program arranged by Maestro Konstantin Petrosian, the Antranig Dance Ensemble brought down the house in a display of energy and artistry unique to their brand of performance. The Chorale described it as "the pinnacle of our concert program, which left the audience in awe."

The Providence show followed by a few months a mini-performance by a handful of Antranig dancers at the 40th Anniversary of the Erevan Choral Society & Orchestra in the Greater Boston area. Fr. Oshagan Minassian of Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Cambridge, Mass. specifically invited the Antranig members to be a part of his program. He then increased the challenge to Antranig Artistic Director Joyce Tamesian-Shenloogian to choreograph dances to several new music pieces which he provided within weeks of the performance. She did her part with a healthy dose of imagination, and the dancers did theirs with daily rehearsals after work, between school sessions, and in addition to their regular full-group rehearsals. And the audience was left with the memories of a graceful and polished dance presentation to complement the Choral Society and Orchestra show.

One of the easier and fun-loving performances the Antranig Ensemble has enjoyed for the past several years is marching in the Persian Parade down Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Sponsored annually by a number of New York-area Persian organizations, they have hooked onto Antranig as one of their premier performers. The dancers stretch across the avenue performing in their rich costumes, as Armenian music blares from the Persian-Armenian float in front of them. It's a true spectacle for the eyes, and each year's parade is no sooner over, than the Antranig dancers are booked for next year's parade. These appearances have also led to the group being booked for an occasional smaller show within the Persian community, which can't seem to get enough of their ethnic Armenian culture.

Another outdoor performance this year, which turned out to be bigger and better than anyone planned, was an Armenian Day event sponsored by the Armenian Club of Columbia University. On the sprawling plaza of the school's Manhattan campus, the Antranig Dance Ensemble performed one group dance after another. Under a warm, sunny sky in early spring, the weather seemed to bring out a tremendous audience of Armenian and non-Armenian alike. Sitting on the steps of the campus buildings, strolling across 116th Street, and creating an on-the-spot theater-in-the-round, the spectators stopped where they were when the Antranig dancers began their show and seemed to multiply with every dance.

This college event followed by only a few months the Armenian Club of Rutgers University annual cultural day at their New Brunswick, NJ campus. Captivating the attendees for nearly an hour, the Antranig Dance Ensemble once again played to their audience, first drawing them in, and then having the additional pleasure of mingling with them at a full dinner prepared and served by the Armenian Club members after the show.

There was an appearance at the 75th Anniversary of the Ladies Guild of Holy Cross Church of Armenia in New York. Chairman and former Antranig dancer Sam Chapootian took time out from the church's celebrations to also present a gift to Antranig Artistic Director Joyce Tamesian-Shenloogian on the occasion of her 20th anniversary as Director.

Sometimes it's the shorter events that get the most attention. For example, the Antranig Dance Ensemble performed just two dances at the Tekeyan Cultural Association banquet celebrating 15 years of Armenian independence in October. With just minutes to get on the Kavookjian Auditorium stage due to a last minute schedule change, the Antranig dancers got the attention of the full house with their rousing brand of nationalistic dance and opened the door for presentations by other dance groups from the New York area. The dancers loved the off-the-record email from one of the organizers that told them "You guys rocked the house, really wowed the crowd and made us all proud."

A few years ago Antranig's directors and alumni were instrumental in starting the Hye Bar Dance Group at the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside. Designed to teach Armenian performance dance to youngsters, attendance grew to weekly rehearsals of thirty, forty, even fifty boys and girls under the leadership of former Antranig dancers Rita and Ginny Arakelyan. In the past few years the members of Hye Bar have performed a couple of dances within Antranig's "Journey Through Dance" production, including on the stage of Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall. Last year, the younger group put on their first full-length performance, "Carrying the Torch." In a reversal of roles, the Antranig Dance Ensemble supported that show with a few dances of their own.

It's a good feeling for Antranig to know that there is a ready-made 'pipeline' of new dancers being trained behind the current group. That philosophy took hold this year as a number of Hye Bar performers have now stepped up to the parent group, with plans to include them in future Antranig performances.

With all this activity, it would be easy to overlook the community service events that the Antranig Dance Ensemble has made a routine part of their calendar. In 2006 that included volunteering their time and talents to the Armenian Home for the Aged in New York, the Knights and Daughters of Vartan in New Jersey, and church events in Queens and New Jersey.

A review of 2006 looks like any other year of the group's colorful past. Whether performing in its native New York environment or traveling to other communities, as it has done nationwide and worldwide for 37 years, the Antranig Ensemble remains true to its role of presenting the most original, contemporary and traditional Armenian dance available today.

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