The horrendous crimes of genocide committed by the Ottoman Government against the Armenians in 1915 will forever be a bitter truth in Armenian history, but it does not identify us as a people.
We have much to celebrate in our few thousand years of existence and, most importantly, we must feel proud to have survived through what I hope was the worst of it. However, our existence today does not mean that our fight for survival is unnecessary; on the contrary, every day we are fighting for the survival of our language, our faith, our homeland, and especially the survival of our future.
This fight, of course, cannot be won if we continue to create divisions among ourselves. It is not a fight meant to be faced only by the Armenians of the Diaspora or by those living in Armenia. As different as the struggles and concerns are for both, they are not separate; we are not separate people, and the sooner we bring down these barriers, communicate and become aware of one another’s situation, the easier it will be to find proper solutions to our problems. It is the unity we are lacking that is necessary to win this fight for survival, and for this we can always count on the treasures of our culture as a means to unite.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada and blessed with parents who are full of Armenian soul and have been devoting their life to Armenian causes ever since I can remember. My brother and I grew up surrounded by every Armenian thing imaginable. Aside from attending Armenian Day School, my parents would take us to every Armenian event that took place. Of course, at the time, it seemed like a drag, but I love them for it and am forever grateful.
Armenian music was played not only in our house but in the car; I grew up watching our videotape collection of Armenian State Dance Ensembles and remember trying to mimic the graceful movements. Although I have been taking ballet lessons since childhood, I desperately wanted to learn Armenian dance but there was nowhere that offered this opportunity until I reached adulthood. When I heard the news of Hamazkayin bringing a dance teacher from Armenia I was among many who were thrilled. Unfortunately, our dance instructor was only able to stay for a little over a year, but it was enough to give me a good base and a great passion to pursue studying and performing Armenian Folk Dance.
Thanks to my parents’ undying support and the help of my dance instructor, I was recently given the opportunity to study Armenian ballet and character dance and graduate as a teacher and performer at the Yerevan State Dance Academy. Although I had been to Armenia several times before with my family and with Homenetmen Scouts, when I traveled to Armenia to study dance, it was different. I was no longer playing the role of the tourist.
I was excited, yet nervous to start this new chapter of my life in a completely different world. To everyone’s surprise, I adapted rather quickly to the lifestyle in Armenia. It felt as if I had been here for years. Despite the many obstacles I have faced during my time in Yerevan, I feel much wiser and have a greater understanding of certain things about this wonderful and crazy country; things that perhaps others might judge with criticism because they have not had the chance to see the ‘real’ Hayastan.
I have learned so much within the walls of the Dance Academy. Every one of my teachers has helped me gain as much knowledge in dance as possible and I am very thankful to them. Aside from the actual dance classes, the program I am enrolled in also offers classes on the history of art, music and dance. I have learned about Armenian composers, artists, choreographers and dancers. I also had the privilege of practicing with professional dancers from the various Armenian state ensembles; and, most recently, I had the honor of dancing on stage in my Motherland–an experience that words cannot describe.
Outside of school I have taken advantage of seeing Armenian plays, admiring the state dance ensembles and ballets, listening to operas and Armenian music, and so on. My life in Armenia is mostly spent being surrounded by or taking part in anything cultural. After all, it is culture that brought me here to Armenia, my home.
My coming to Yerevan to study dance has created an unbreakable bond between myself and my Hayrenik. As sad as I am to be leaving Armenia in a few months after graduation, I am also looking forward to my return to Toronto so that I may pass along every bit of knowledge I have learned about our culture to our future generations. Yes, being active politically and socially is also crucial for our survival, however, it is our culture that fills the gaps and truly connects all Armenians as one.
Celebration and awareness of our culture creates an indestructible bridge and automatically connects us all to each other. I urge all Armenians to take part in building this bridge and embracing our culture as a means to unite.