The Dance of Memory: Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide

The Dance of Memory: Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide 

April 24, 2015


Friday, April 24, 2015 marks one hundred years since the start of the Armenian Genocide of 1915.


In my dance workshop last Sunday in Somerset, England, we lit candles to the exquisite voice of the great Armenian soprano Lusine Zakarian, and danced beautiful Armenian dances in a ritual of solidarity with this occasion.


I have been encouraging all my students to dance Armenian dances with their groups this week, most especially on Friday, to align with the commemorations happening around the world. Even if you do not dance, you could simply light a candle and listen to some Armenian music (see my list of recommendations at the end of this post). I feel that every act of compassionate witnessing, however small, helps heal the wounds of history.


Why Armenian dances? I am not Armenian, yet in my thirty years of researching and teaching traditional dances, Armenian dances have held a particular fascination for me, in their poignant melodies and timeless gestures expressing love, longing and homecoming.


Armenian Christianity has also been a tremendous source of inspiration. The Armenian khachkar (‘stone cross’) is magnificently life-affirming, in that the cross, rather than an instrument of suffering, is the Tree of Life, revealing the living wisdom of Christ’s teachings. Since antiquity, the Tree of Life has also represented the Goddess, originally worshipped in Armenia as Anahit, Saris, Nar, and Nune.


Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity, in 301 CE. Perhaps because it developed so early, the Armenian Orthodox church retains features of its nature-reverent origins. A solar symbol appears on every khachkar, embedded in the roots of the Tree to show union and balance, rather than separation, between earth and sky, spirit and matter. These are also the key principles of Armenian traditional dance, which I have been exploring in movement for thirty years...


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