Young dancers from ArmFolk reach new heights.

Young Artists from Armenia Perform to Standing Ovations in Exhilarating Performance

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PHILADELPHIA — A group of exceptionally talented young musicians from Armenia infused a powerful dose of pride into the Philadelphia Armenian community with their repertoire of exuberant Armenian dances, instrumentals, and songs in a one-of-a-kind intercommunal event in celebration of Vartanantz Day at St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Apostolic Church in Philadelphia on Wednesday, February 15.

Draped in exquisite Armenian costumes, the group called Armfolk, brought the audience of more than 225 guests to their feet multiple times during the hourlong performance.

The musical extravaganza featured nine young dancers performing such favorites as Kochari and Shoushigi.

The dancers and Kanoun player take a bow.

An accomplished young qanunist, Kristine Yengoyan, inspired the audience with her mastery of the ancient instrument in such pieces as Groong and Perpetuum.

And a celebrated singer, Hayk Avetisyan, exhilarated guests with a series of patriotic songs, concluding with Yes im anoosh Hayasdani (My Sweet Armenia).

The incredible display was thanks largely to the efforts of Tigran Mnoyan, the artistic director of Prof Art Dance Studio of Yerevan, and Aleksan Zakyan, the president of the Armenian National Delphic Committee, an international initiative for peace and harmony through encounters of cultures.

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The committee partnered with the Rotary Children’s Fund through an international exchange program called Golden Gates to provide culturally enriching educational experiences for participants and Armenian and non-Armenian audiences alike. Vitaliy Bezrodnov, founder of the Rotary Children’s Fund, helped make the journey possible. The Rotary is a global network working to create lasting change and make the world a better place.

“We are building up young Armenians and spreading the word of our culture throughout the world,” said a proud Zakyan, who has been advancing Armenian causes through these and other educational initiatives with groups of Armenian youth for decades. He is motivated by what he calls the spirit of every Armenian to rise above through faith and initiative, not only to survive but to thrive.

Elegant young dancers in motion

Earlier on February 15, the Armfolk musicians shared their spectacular performance with children of the Armenian Sisters Academy in Radnor, the first Armenian day school of the East Coast. The academy students, who were to perform a Vartanantz celebration of their own the following day, were inspired by the Armfolk talent. They were delighted to share an afternoon of dance, song, food, and conversation with their peers in a unique exchange of bonding across the continents.

In what was a monthlong Armfolk venture, the group performed in Armenian and non-Armenian venues across the U.S. The group is no stranger to travel, but this was an especially long and rich tour, the organizers said. “The children became a family,” said a very proud Mnoyan, with Zakyan adding that he lovingly took on a fatherly role.

The travelers’ “family” grew in Philadelphia, as several area Armenian residents opened their homes to host their two-night stay. Several families had children of their own, who especially enjoyed the experience. The day was made possible through the efforts of the Philadelphia Armenian Intercommunal Committee, led by chairman Andrew Kzirian.

The intercommunal group has been bringing Armenians of all five area Armenian churches together for decades.

This year’s committee includes chair Andrew Kzirian, vice chair Arpy Minasian, treasurer Steven Keytanjian, secretary Emily Terjimanian, Ara Kahvejian, Maral Kaloustian, Tanya Paretchan, Vicken Keshishian, John Paulson, and clergy Rev. Torkom Chorbajian of St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Church, Rev. Hakob Gevorkyan of Holy Trinity Armenian Church, Rev. Fr. Asadour Minasian of St. Mark’s Armenian Catholic Church, pastor Heather C. Ohaneson of Armenian Martyrs Congregational Church, and principal Sister Emma Moussayan of the Armenian Sisters Academy.

The St. Gregory Church Ladies Guild presented an extensive table of Armenian sweets and refreshments after the performance. Chorbajian offered a brief overview of Vartanantz and why it matters to Armenians. While the Persian emperor Yazdegert demanded that Armenians renounce their Christian faith and adopt Zoroastrianism 15 centuries ago, the Armenian general Vartan Mamigonian and his soldiers fought to the death to hold fast to their Christian faith. Armenians did not succumb then, he said, and continue to stand strong against all odds today. Rev. Fr. Nerses Manoogian, former pastor of St. Gregory Church, offered the closing prayer.

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