Shushi Dance Ensemble Delivers Patriotism and Passion


By Talin Kupelian

 LODI, N.J. — Shushi Armenian Dance Ensemble delivered what it promised, a magnificent celebration of a trio of 20th anniversaries: that of Armenia’s independence, Karabagh’s independence and the founding of the Shushi Dance Ensemble.

It was a day of flags — Armenian tri-color flags were sprinkled throughout the packed auditorium of Felician College. The ingredients were in place — a packed house, organized volunteers, coordination and cooperation, energetic young dancers, talented musicians, the professional St. Vartan Cathedral Choir with conductor

Khoren Mekanejian and a professional staff of sound engineers and stage managers, the likes of which had not been assembled before. There was a power failure in New Jersey as a result of the Halloween snow. Felician College was also experiencing a power outage.

It was a miracle that the show went ahead as planned. The last two days were a roller coaster for the organizers, but everyone came through with flying colors. With rumors of a cancellation spreading on the Internet, members and parents alike took to Facebook, Twitter, email and any social media network they knew to reassure the public that the show was going to go on as scheduled. Backstage the scene was just as touching. In one corner there was a group of boys teaching a fellow Shushi member the words to a song to make sure he could get on stage to perform confidently. In another room there was a group of young girls holding hands in a circle and praying right before the performance. In the next room, there were a few girls helping each other with their hair and costumes.

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Every detail was accounted for. As guests walked into the main entrance, each was led to the red carpet area where they took pictures in front of a large banner and Shushi logos. Once the guests walked into the auditorium they were greeted by the senior members of the ensemble who ushered the guests to their seats.

Walking into the auditorium, the room was filled with 800 flags placed on every other chair. There was music playing in the background as a slideshow was being presented on both sides of the room with pictures reminiscing the 20-year history of the Shushi Dance Ensemble. Once the program began, audience members waved the flags to the patriotic opening number of Verakangnir Guiligia, as 150 performers presented a powerful beginning that set the stage for the next two hours of an exhilarating program

The mood was positive, the dancers were ready, the costumes were colorful, most of which were designed and sewn in Armenia, including the choir and the musicians’ costumes. The talented musicians, along with the singers Hovig Krikorian, Armen Hovanessian, Salbi Mailyan and Lillian, added just the right balance. Musical director, Andranik Mouradian, who has been a permanent fixture at Shushi performances for more than 10 years, delivered the music and directed his band of five musicians. He said, “I have worked with many musicians and high profile directors and choreographers from all over the world. I have never encountered anyone who has been involved in every aspect of a program of this magnitude with so much attention to detail as Seta Paskalian-Kantardjian.” As usual Laurie Dabaghian was impressive with her passionate voice; she recited the poems dedicated to Armenian heroes.

It was a professionally-staged, seamless production. With a strong advertising campaign on Cablevision, television and radio interviews, social media networks and mass mailing, the organizers were determined to ensure a packed auditorium, and the mission was accomplished. In the audience were Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian, Armenia’s United Nations Ambassador Garen Nazarian and his wife; Fr. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Vartan Cathedral; the benefactors of this program, Hagop and Ica Kouyoumdjian, along with other prominent figures in the community.

Paskalian-Kantardjian’s dedication and commitment to the dance ensemble is commendable. She has earned the love and respect of all. Shushi’s 20th anniversary celebrations will continue throughout this season as the ensemble travels to California and will conclude in July 2012 with a tour of Argentina and Uruguay.

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