By Tom Vartabedian
BOSTON — As a young lad of 8 pursuing ballet, the girls laugh and giggled when they saw Avetik Karapetyan in leotards. Today, he has the last laugh. This is his second year as a soloist with the Boston Ballet, appearing in productions such as “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty.”
The virtuoso performer is wrapping up an appearance in a show called “Etudes” through May 18 before enjoying a respite through the summer months. He looks back on those formative years and smiles at the irony. If anything, the growing pains were much like a “Billy Elliott” scenario where young boys are thought to be more suited for boxing and soccer than the pas de deux.
“They told me to undress into my underwear,” he recalls. “I was a little embarrassed by it. Over time, you grew accustomed to it.”
Swimming was his destiny in Armenia. At 8 months, he was already churning water as people watched incredulously. By 5, he was winning competitions throughout Yerevan. Of course, having a father as a champion swimmer in the Soviet Union didn’t hurt matters.
Then came boxing and karate, much to dad’s displeasure. Through friends, Karapetyan turned to the world of the arts. He qualified for an artistic school and slowly made his way to auditions. One step led to another.
All it really took was one performance of Aram Khachaturian’s “Spartacus” and he was hooked for life.
“In Armenia, there were very few opportunities for male dancers,” he noted. “Whatever talent there is becomes dispersed. If they all stayed in their country, it would be one of the best companies in the world. The opportunities have led to a wonderful career with a great ensemble in Boston,” he said.
After graduating from the Yerevan National Ballet Company in 2003 under the direction of Hovannes Divanyan, he was invited to study at the Heinz-Bosl Ballet Company of Munich where he trained with Alexander Prokofiev.
Upon graduating in 2005, he worked in Vienna for a year before dancing with the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm.
Among his many awards were first place medals in the 2012 International Istanbul Ballet Competition and the 2009 Rome Primo Ballet Competition. Other notable credits include “Romeo and Juliet” and “Don Quixote.”
Two years ago, he was offered a contract by The Boston Ballet after an audition. There just happened to be an opening for a soloist and he landed the role. Sharing the joy were his parents and two siblings in Yerevan. They keep in touch constantly through social media.
Armenians like Sossy Jeknavorian and daughter Ani, a former dancer, were taken aback after attending a performance of the Boston Ballet. They noticed Karapetyan’s name in the program and decided to introduce themselves. The family has endeared itself to the dancer, even taking him snowmobiling.
“I meet Armenians at the stage door and they tell me how proud they are to see me perform,” he says. “People are e-mailing me all the time. They want to know the person behind the Armenian name dancing with one of the world’s leading companies,” he noted.
He added that he has made contact with Apo Ashjian and attended a rehearsal of the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Greater Boston.
“It’s just amazing to see what Apo does for these dancers in promoting our heritage,” Karapetyan points out.
A typical day in Boston runs eight hours with classes and rehearsals. Spare time is spent inside a gym to relax and keep fit.
With no car, Karapetyan meanders around the city aboard his bike, weaving in and out of traffic.
At 5-9, 145 pounds, an extra pound or two could throw the body off kilter for the 38-year-old. Punishing. Grueling. Yet, incredibly rewarding. It’s been a life that knows no boundaries, simply a leap of faith.
“When I do ‘Swan Lake’, I feel like I’m in another world,” he admits. “Hard work and determination ultimately pays off. When I’m on that stage, I feel like I’m representing not only myself but Armenia as well.”
He concluded, “I look forward to the day when I’ll return to Armenia and dance.”
By Tom Vartabedian