Director of Philadelphia’s Meghri Dance Group says the group came to Armenia, the real homeland

July 22nd marked the solemn opening ceremony of the 3rd “My Armenia” Pan-Armenian Festival at Alexander Spendiaryan National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet. The festival is organized by the RA Ministry of Diaspora and dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Independence of the Republic of Armenia and was launched with the Days of Armenian Dance Program, which gathered 48 Armenian dance companies from 25 countries around the world.

Armenian dance is an integral part of the history of the Armenian people, and every episode of the history is reflected therein. It is the image, trait, language and mindset of an Armenian. Yes, after all, dance is the language of the soul. Armenian dance is the language of the soul of an Armenian-the Armenian who, imposed to be scattered across the globe, strives to preserve his identity with an incredible, unimaginable and universal force.

In one of her meetings, RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan stated the following: “Every Armenian dance group in the Armenian Diaspora serves as a real haven for preservation of the Armenian identity, and we Armenians need to do everything we can to make sure they remain active and grow. The festival provides them with the opportunity to not only show their talent and present their achievements, but also meet and become friends with each other, and our force lies in the unity of all Armenians around the world.”

One of the real havens for preservation of the Armenian identity is Hamazkayin Philadelphia’s Mehgri Dance Group. The director of the dance group is Lena Ohannesian, who established the Meghri Dance Group with the support of Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society Philadelphia Chapter. “The dance group has only been around for five years. It had to be established since there was a need for further dissemination of Armenian culture and the preservation of the Armenian identity. We realized its importance. Of course, there have been other dance groups before ours, but over time, for different reasons, they have been disbanded. We started with only three members. Now, there are over 30 members. We knew that attracting the attention of Armenian children and youth and sparking their interest in Armenian dance was important and necessary and that being a good dance instructor was also important and a responsible task. The late Tovmas Harutyunyan assumed that task and transmitted his knowledge with great dedication for five years. Unfortunately, he passed away last year as the irreplaceable artistic director of our dance group,” Lena Ohannesian stated in an interview with Hayern Aysor.

The dance group does everything it can to make sure the Armenian community realizes and attaches importance to the preservation of Armenian culture. After all, culture lies at the core of identity, and it is safe to say that culture and identity are the same to a certain extent. If a nation loses its culture, it also loses its identity. “We are ready to help every Armenian who wants to participate in cultural life. Parents can enroll their children in our dance group when the child turns six years old. We don’t spare any effort to make sure they fall in love with Armenian dances and enjoy performing them. We have dancers between the ages of 6 and 25. We are in Armenia with 12 dancers. When the dance group was being established, I promised my students that they would perform in Armenia. At the time, I simply said that to motivate and encourage them. Today, I fulfilled my promise,” Mrs. Ohannesian said.

Meghri Dance Group performed Vilen Galustyan’s “Kroonk” dance during the opening ceremony. However, the group has also performed many other dances at different kinds of events, celebrations and gatherings in Philadelphia. “The people of Philadelphia love Armenian dances. Of course, they don’t know a lot about our roots, but they do know that we are Armenian. Foreigners especially respect us for not forgetting our culture, identity and language in spite of all the contributing factors. We are currently preparing small leaflets about Armenia so that the people in the audience read and know about Armenian dances, Armenia and its history during our future concerts in Philadelphia,” Mrs. Lena stated.

The members of the dance group are very impressed with Armenia. Some of them are visiting the homeland for the first time ever, but have already gotten to know the country and say they admire the nature of Armenia. “We came to Armenia, our real homeland. The youth admire the homeland. I am certain that they will tell others and motivate them as soon as they return to Philadelphia. I was here nine years ago. The country has changed a lot and moved forward. God willing, we will participate in the other festivals with larger groups. This serves as a good opportunity for all Armenians of the world to visit the homeland, meet and establish contacts. We don’t have much time to establish contacts now, but we have short conversations backstage. It would be nice to have the groups spend a day meeting each other and establishing strong contacts with representatives of Armenian communities of different countries,” Lena Ohannesian noted and added that the pan-Armenian festival is a real celebration. “We participated in that celebration for ten days. We thank the Ministry of Diaspora for the good days, memories and moments.”

Amalya Karapetyan

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