GRAND JUNCTION, Mich.—More than 100 young dancers converged on Warner Camp in Grand Junction on Aug. 26 for a weekend of music, dance, and fun at the first Hamazkayin Eastern Region Dance Retreat.
“The powerful emotion and sense of unity we experienced this past weekend was overwhelming. We watched our youth form everlasting bonds, proudly joining hands to walk in the footsteps of our forefathers,” said dance instructor Nayiri Karapetian (Hamazkayin Detroit).
The word “powerful” was echoed by many participants, including guest instructor Lara Zanazanian from Detroit. “This dance retreat was so powerful in representing our survival and love for our culture,” she said.
The participants, members of three Hamazkayin Eastern Region dance groups, took part in mixed instruction sessions, choreographed and practiced Armenian dances, enjoyed the great outdoors swimming and canoeing, and, in the evenings, food and fun around the campfire.
“We laughed, we sang, we danced, and we created a new Armenia,” said Hamazkayin New Jersey chair Ani Tchaghlasian.
The Hamazkayin N.J. Nayiri Dance Ensemble, the Detroit Hamazkayin Arax Dance Ensemble, and the Hamazkayin Sardarabad Armenian Dance Ensemble participated in the first of what the organizers intend to be an annual dance retreat.
Hamazkayin Chicago dance instructors Houri Papazian and Sona Birazian said they were humbled at the sight of over 100 dancers united for one cause: preservation of our culture. “On numerous occasions throughout the weekend we were overcome with emotion to see our youth’s passion, commitment, and dedication to our culture,” said Birazian.
The instructors of each dance group held choreography and practice session with the two other dance ensembles, offering an opportunity for the participants to be exposed to a variety of styles and approaches.
One of the highlights of the retreat was “Armenian Idol,” as participants were divided into eight groups, assigned a song, and tasked with choreographing their own Armenian dance performance. After the competing groups performed, a five-member jury provided feedback and selected two winning teams.
“It was incredible meeting other dancers that love dance as much as I do and dancing with them from sunrise to sunset,” said Hamazkayin Detroit dancer Talar Malkadjian.
Hamazkayin N.J. dancer Garine Koushagjian said was not a typical weekend for her and added, “I can’t wait for next year!”