Vanush Babayan dancing with Han Yuying

Vanush Babayan: Armenian Dance Teacher from China

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By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN/SHANGHAI – Vanush Babayan, the art director of Hang Zhou Great Ballet Art Culture and the director of the international line at Allegro Dance Academy is a kind of crossing point of my studies on Armenian-Chinese historical and cultural relations and the Armenians’ participation in world choreography. This young man, originally from Yerevan, has worked for China for many years, teaching hundred of Chinese children and adults the ABCs of classical dance.

Vanush, why did you prefer distant and exotic China, while the majority of Armenian ballet professionals look to the West?

There is plenty of space for choreography in China. A large number of international dance teachers and ballet masters work there. A Russian dance instructor from Harbin learned from his colleagues that there is a certain young Armenian who possesses good technique in modern ballet and also wants to teach, and invited me to work at the Dalian International School of Dancing. First I went just for a try, two months later they signed a one-year contract with me and then offered me the post of the school’s deputy director… and thus for thirteen years, I have lived and worked in China.

Are you from a ballet family?

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My parents are musicians. I graduated the piano department of a musical school and then started to dance. First I went to the Armenian dance group and then in St. Petersburg I took modern ballet classes with private tutors. During six years, I took part in the paid classes of the Vaganyan College of Choreography and other specialized schools for half a year period. In St. Petersburg, I participated in “The Evil Forces” and “The Detainees” modern ballet shows, as well as ran seminars there, in Volgograd and elsewhere. In 1998, I left for Karvachar for military service on the front line.

Vanush Babayan dancing with Han Yuying

I hope your feet have not been damaged in military boots.

There was such a problem — a painful issue for ballet dancers in Armenia. But my service went very well. I received the title of senior sergeant and later of petty officer. After completing my military service, I renewed my professional training. For one year I danced at the Barekamutiun (Friendship) dance group led by veteran dancer Norayr Mehrabyan and the Tatoul Altunyan Song and Dance Ensembles. At the same time for four years I was studying classical dances with Paylak Sargsyan, an exceptional pedagogue and choreographer, whom I consider my main teacher. Whenever I return to Yerevan, I meet Mr. Sargsyan and always learn something new from him. In Yerevan I also founded Van Dance Studio, as well as taught classical dance in different schools. In 2002, we founded Parmani Dance Studio with Smbat Klekchyan, teaching folk, character and classical dances. As I had a good modern ballet school and the Chamber Music Theater was just founded in Yerevan, I was advised to try myself there. I worked in that theater for two years. I participated in the musicals “Cats,” “NotreDame de Paris,” “Lilith,” and “Chicago.” Then the government began to make some claims against our theater building, and I accepted the invitation to work in China. At Dalian International Dance School, they wanted to develop classical dance, as previously they taught only Latin American dances.

With what language did you communicate at the beginning?

English, but from the earliest years I was good in mastering languages, so in two years by myself I learned and became fluent in Chinese. So far no one believes that I have learned the language on my own. I have not attended any courses. I worked for four and a half years at the Dalian International Dance School. Then I decided to expand the circle, and in other cities I held seminars with dance teachers and students. I wanted to create my own school, but in 2013, I was offered work at the Beijing Huajia Choreography Academy for a year. It is a large-scale professional school, closely cooperating with Korea, England, and other countries, with about 500 pupils, all of them living, sleeping, eating, and studying in that school. In 2013 I obtained a certificate from the International Dance Board of England, which is the highest one for dance teachers. Before that, in 2008, I received the Order of International Referee of the All-China Dancing Federation and became a member of the All-China Teachers Examination Board.

Tell us about your young students. How do they address you?

Topics: Dance

At first, Vanush Laoshi (teacher), but my name was hard to pronounce, so now they call me Babayan Laoshi. In China, one of my greatest achievements is connecting with my student Han Yuying, whom I have been teaching for eleven years. In 2014 she won the first prize at the age of 17 and in 2016 the third prize in a higher age group in the royal ballet competition in Italy. By the way, she came to Yerevan before arriving in Italy, and we practiced in our country, which was brilliant. Han Yuying was awarded also the Royal Dance Grand Prix in 2017 in Beijing. When I was the jury chairman of the Hellas Youth Ballet Competition in Athens in 2017, Han Yuying was a jury member, which was also a matter of pride for me. Of my students in Armenia, Mariam Karapetyan is now a ballet dancer in Egypt, Tamar Miskaryan teaches at a Yerevan dance school and Ani Najaryan studied at Moscow State Dancing Academy. In China, every year a big dance competition is being held, choosing the 12 best couples. I am proud to say my pupils were selected among the best couples for many times. I toured with my pupils in different parts of China, representing folk dance and ballet scenes.

Chinese people are known for their diligence. Is it easy to work with them?

Right, they are industrious because they are always in a hurry. If they do something, they do not sleep or eat until they have finished. The reason is the rhythm of their country, the fast pace of development that automatically affects people’s character. The Chinese have a very good physical foundation, as they are being trained from childhood. It is excluded that they, for example, will gain weight at once, and the teacher’s hard work will be in vain. It remains to have a professional program of classical dance. By the way, China highly appreciates its teachers and art professionals. It is enough to state that the state takes care of about forty percent of their utility costs.

Finally, please tell me about your own dance shows.

I performed for years when I worked at the Yerevan Mikael Maluntsyan Musical School. With Mozart’s music, I presented a dance performance “The Seagull” by Chekhov, which I then repeated in Dalian. There I also staged a Tom and Jerry children’s performance and “Frozen Emotions” with Chinese folk music. I taught a few Chinese dances to our kids in Yerevan. as well as variations for classical repertoire: “The Sleeping Beauty,” “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake,” “Don Quixote,” and dances from “Notre-Dame de Paris.” I have also staged classical and folk dances – Russian, Ukrainian and Greek.  Anticipating your next question, I have introduced my students to Armenian dance movements and I intend to perform an Armenian dance performance in China.

Recently I founded the Global International Dance Competition as its artistic director. It will take place for the

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