Gev Manoukian

Gev Manoukian: Our All-Around-Hip-Hopping Guy

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YEREVAN/CENTERVILLE, UTAH — Gev (Gevorg) Manoukian (born September 15, 1986, Temirtau, Kazakh SSR, now Kazakhstan]) is an Armenian/Russian hip hop and break dancer. He learned to ice skate before turning his attention to dance as his passion when he was 16 years old in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he has lived since 2003.

Gev danced in “High School Musical 2” and got his first big break when he became a top ten finalist on the TV hit show “So You Think You Can Dance.” This appearance brought him national attention, leading to a role in the MTV musical “American Mall.”

In November 2010, he performed at the 2010 American Music Awards with the singer Pink to her hit song Raise Your Glass. He has credits in Nickelodeon’s “Fresh Beat Band” and “Big Time Rush,” as well as “Dancing with the Stars” and “America’s Got Talent.” He has worked with various artists, such as Whitney Houston, Chaka Khan, Pink, Ludacris, Ellen DeGeneres and LeAnn Rimes to name a few. Gev can also be seen in National commercials, music videos, Nickelodeon’s “Fresh Beat Band,” “Big Time Rush,” ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars,” NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” etc.

Gev, your finest hour is connected to your participation in “Think You Can Dance.” What was the biggest challenge and most significant moment in it?

The biggest challenge on being on “So You Think You Can Dance” is dealing with the pressure. It was the biggest thing I had done up to that point and at times it was overwhelming. A lot of pressure came from trying to not make mistakes. The most significant moment was the opening of the show. When you are on that stage and the cameras are on, the lights, the audience are all watching you, you really feel the gravitas of the moment. It was an unforgettable experience.

I remember while in the US ten years ago, I was delighted to see hip-hop dance classes with lots of participants at universities. Is hip-hop still so popular among American youth?

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Hip-hop plays a big role in the young US community. I would say it is bigger now then it has ever been. Hip-hop was always a vehicle for youth to express themselves, and now with social media it is a lot more accessible and also a lot more popular. Plus, hip-hop as a culture, encompasses a lot of different genres: dancing (hip-hop, breakdancing, popping, locking, etc.), rapping, graffiti and DJ. So the youth have a lot of different avenues to express themselves in that culture.

Gev Manoukian

You worked with show-business celebrities. Are there any special moments you would like to share?

One of my favorite artists to work with was Pink. She was very personable and professional. She learned the choreography so fast and she sang live in rehearsals, which I thought was really cool. Also meeting Whitney Houston was awesome. After the show, she introduced us to her whole family, really made us feel special. I also got to meet Anthony Hopkins and had a great conversation with him. He was so down to earth and smart!!! I met Anthony Hopkins filming his movie the “The World’s Fastest Indian.” I believe it was in 2004. I was an extra in the movie. It was filmed at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Nevada. One of the days we were having lunch, and Anthony Hopkins just walked up to us and started talking. He introduced himself as Tony, to which I said: “We know who you are” while smiling. We talked about where everyone was from and mostly how the food was. He did not know I was Armenian until after I told him. He knew a lot about Armenia.

Your name has appeared in dozens of TV films and series. Is there any peculiarities in dancing in front of the camera?

Dancing in front of the camera is definitely different than dancing on stage. You don’t have the instant gratification of people clapping and cheering for you when you are performing in front of the camera. But it is very gratifying to see the finished project when the show is edited. You know how much time and hard work went in to it, and being a part of it feels rewarding. Also the camera catches a lot more details, so even the smallest movements can look big, and have a huge impact on the audience.

What funny moments can you share with us?

I was performing in Utah after “So You Think You Can Dance.” Chelsie Hightower and I did a duet. During the dance we had to do a kick forward and when I kicked my shoe flew off and hit a guy in the audience on the head. Everyone in the audience and us on stage started laughing. I had to do the rest of the number with one shoe. After the number was done the guy threw my shoe back to me!

At what age does a hip-hop dancer retire?

That is a good question. I don’t really know. Because there are so many different dance styles in hip-hop culture, it’s hard to say. I know of some hip-hop dancers that are still dancing in their 50s and 60s.

You were born into a family of professional figure skaters. Please tell us about your parents.

My father (Akop Manoukian) was a three-time Armenian champion, two-time Kazakhstan champion, and Professional World showcase second place winner. My mother (Larissa Batmanova) was a junior world champion and was supposed to represent the USSR in the Olympics, but ended up getting a major injury and could no longer complete.

Do you know from what part of Armenia your ancestors were from?

To be honest I am not sure. I know we lived in Yerevan, in the Zeitun area. My mother lived in Kazakhstan and my father went to army there. He served in the sports regiment; that’s where a lot of professional athletes served. That’s how they met. So I was born in Kazakhstan and then moved to Armenia right after for a couple of years. I lived in Armenia when I was a baby, maybe for 3 years total. So I did not remember much until I went back in 2015.

You travel all over the world choreographing, teaching and performing. What about Kazakhstan or Armenia?

I have performed both in Kazakhstan and Armenia. When I was in Armenia I also taught some dance classes that I have offered for free. My goal was to give back to my people and see how they dance and move! They did great!!!

You were born in Kazakhstan with small Armenian community and now live in Utah, a state again with few Armenian inhabitants – however, how is the situation with Armenian traditions?

Even though I have not been around a lot of Armenian people, Armenian culture is still very deeply rooted in me. My family is very good at keeping up with Armenian traditions and culture, so I have learned a lot. Also going to Yerevan really helped me reconnect with my Armenian roots. I can’t wait to go back there again! We still have a lot of family there.

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