Katarina Darbinyan: “Dance is life, history, language and…a weapon!”

Artistic directors of Ararat Armenian Dance Ensemble of Issy-les-Moulineaux, the young and attractive couple Katarina Darbinyan and Aram Arzumanyan, who were recently hosted at the Ministry of Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia, gave an interview to Hayern Aysor. During the interview, I listened to their pro-national and patriotic activities with a feeling of pride and admiration. Hayern Aysor presents the interview in its entirety.

Karine Avagyan: Katarina, tell us about your dance ensemble’s activities.

Katarina Darbinyan: Ararat Armenian Dance Ensemble was established 14 years ago and is adjunct to the Armenian Apostolic Church in Issy-les-Moulineaux. The founders are the chairman of the church and his wife, Turkish-Armenians Haikaz Gordebak and Maida Gonkese. After its establishment, the dance ensemble was under the direction of another dance instructor, after which the founders found us and invited us to be the ensemble’s dance instructors, and we have been directing the dance ensemble as a couple for the past 14 years. It is safe to say we are also the founders.

Karine Avagyan: As far as I understood, you and Aram are professional dancers. When and how did you start dancing?

Katarina Darbinyan: Yes, you are right. We are professional dancers. We lived in Armenia and danced in the Barekamutyun State Dance Ensemble. We graduated from Yerevan State Dance School and Yerevan State Institute of Arts and Theater and were students of Armen Mazmanyan. Later, we signed a contract and traveled to Paris where, as I mentioned, we have been living and working for the past 14 years.

Karine Avagyan: How old do your dancers have to be to start dancing? Are they professional dancers?

Katarina Darbinyan: We admit dancers between the ages of 4 and 35 and already have a ensemble of 25 child dancers. There is no age limit. It is just that most of the dancers get married and have children. We already have about 5 families of dancers and grandchildren who have joined our ensemble. We admit all those who wish to dance. We don’t take appearance into consideration at all, and it doesn’t matter if they are thin or fat…The important thing is that they dance well, and the most important thing is to help them preserve the Armenian identity through dance.

Karine Avagyan: Let’s talk about costumes. There are obviously various types of national costumes originating from various provinces of Armenia. Do you manage to show a delicate approach to the details that are characteristic of every province and maintain the conventional colors, decorations, hats and jewels at the same time? Do you consult with specialists?

Katarina Darbinyan: You asked a very important question. Our goal is not to show or advocate everything about the nation in a precise manner. Aesthetics is the most important thing for us. The costumes are designed according to our taste, and of course, we consult with professional tailors, one of whom is Rubina Hovhannisyan. We also collaborate with famous skillful tailor for operas Karine, and now we have started collaborating with tailor/painter Aida Melkonyan, who is such a great designer. I would like for everyone to see her sketches.

Karine Avagyan: Katarina, do you and your husband only direct the ensemble, or do you also dance?

Katarina Darbinyan: We direct the ensemble and teach the beginners. As far as our longtime dancers are concerned, we try to help them improve. We also dance with them. We continue to dance in order to make a living. We often dance on big stages. We dance solo dances, dances for couples and international dances. We also take flamingo dance lessons, but we teach Armenian dances.

Karine Avagyan: Do you only teach, or do you also give a brief presentation of the particular dance?

Katarina Darbinyan: We teach the dance, present the origin of the dance and explain the meaning of every move of the particular dance.

Karine Avagyan: In which other cities and countries has the dance ensemble performed?

Katarina Darbinyan: Our dance ensemble has performed in different cities across France and in Belgium. Currently, we are getting ready to give a concert dedicated to our ensemble’s 15th anniversary in Armenia next year.

Karine Avagyan: How often do you visit Armenia? Is this your first time at the Ministry of Diaspora?

Katarina Darbinyan: We visit Armenia every year, and this is our first time at the Ministry of Diaspora. The respectable Minister received us with great pleasure. We came to talk about our work and future plans and consult with the Minister.

Karine Avagyan: Are there dances you still haven’t choreographed or dances you are working on?

Katarina Darbinyan: We have choreographed many dances. We simply want to choreograph some dances again. We support innovations, and this is exactly why we choreographed the famous “Berd” Armenian dance again.

Karine Avagyan: Do the French applaud your efforts?

Katarina Darbinyan: Yes, they do. One time, we performed in a French city where the people in the audience were mainly young Frenchmen. They received us very cordially and gave endless rounds of applause.

Karine Avagyan: Besides your students, is there anyone else who can follow in your footsteps? 

Katarina Darbinyan: We have a 9-year-old girl, who has been dancing in our ensemble for the past five years. Our son is only 4 years old and doesn’t dance yet, but he closely follows our performances. He has the posture of a dancer, and I think he will want to dance someday.

Karine Avagyan: Katarina, I would like to ask Aram a question. Aram, which of you is the leader? Who works harder with the ensemble?

Aram Arzumanyan: Both of us. We both work hard, but my wife works more as a psychologist. She talks to the members, gives explanations, while I demand that my students work harder and constantly make them work harder.

Karine Avagyan: As directors of the dance ensemble and being professional dancers yourselves, what interesting things have you discovered in Armenian dances over the years?

Aram Arzumanyan: We haven’t discovered, but always felt the unique rhythms in Armenian dances that are only characteristic of Armenian dances.

Karine Avagyan: Katarina, Aram, if you were reborn by a miracle, would you choose dance as a profession again?

Katarina and Aram: Definitely! We have the same opinion. Dance is life, history, language and…a weapon!

Karine Avagyan: Well, we will be waiting for your long-anticipated concert in the Homeland.

Karine Avagyan

Scroll Up