Dance was something that she has been practicing since she was a child. From being a little kid entertaining the whole family in events to becoming a professional dancer, choreographer, and honored artist, her path was sculpted by inspiring people, Armenian culture, and the inner power of her motherland Armenia. The guest of No Label Business Magazine is Armenian dance instructor, and the founder of Armenian Dance Academy of Las Vegas, Gohar Markarian.
ell us a little about your childhood, old interests or hobbies that you used to do when you were a kid.
As a child, I was very active and energetic little girl. I was a very good student at school, my parents would be always proud and happy after every parent meeting. Later on, I also graduated from university with a red diploma in International Relationship and Diplomacy. With all my passion to learning and studying I was super active outside in the neighborhood, I was a pro at playing pakhkvotsi, halamula (hide and seek in Armenian), and gortsnagorts (dodgeball in Armenian). I don’t know how I could balance out both my school homework and the game time. Also, I was very artistic and loved singing and dancing. I was never shy to entertain our friends and relatives during our family gatherings. That’s when my parents noticed my passion to art and took me to dance classes.
t what age did you start practicing Armenian dance? Was that something that you chose or your parents did?
It was absolutely my choice to have the dance as part of my life and my parents supported me in it. I remember as it was yesterday, I was a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, my mom holding my hand took me to the dance studio next to Pioneer Palace. It was my first dance class, and ever since, my mom was always my biggest fan and supporter in my dance career. The fact that I have the first and the largest Armenian Dance Academy in Nevada is because my mom never gave up on me and her prayers are always with me.
ell us a little about your biggest accomplishment in dance while residing in Armenia.
The biggest accomplishment was that I became an artist of Armenian State Honored ensemble of Song and Dance after Tatul Altunyan, which was the first ensemble to present our national dance in Diaspora. This was a huge achievement, to pass the exam to be part of the State ensemble.
ave you been born and raised in Armenia?
Even though I love the United States and I’m very thankful to this beautiful country for all the opportunities it gives us, I’m really proud to be Armenian. I was born and raised in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia, which was the first country to have adopted christianity as its national religion. This is the country that has lost 1.5 million Armenians back in 1915, and still stands strong. This is the country with the most beautiful culture in the whole wide world, and I can go on and on about Armenia but we’ll surely run out of time (smiling).
ho was your inspiration of Armenian Dance?
I am very lucky to be captivated, shaped, nurtured, and released into the dance world by the most talented and amazing teachers like Boris Gevorgyan (artistic director of Bert ensemble), Ashot & Astghik Martirosyans (artistic directors, choreographers of Amaras Dance Studio,and solo artists of Armenian State Dance Ensemble), Inna Kostanyan (Choreographer of Armenian State Honored Ensemble of Song and Dance since 1994), and many others. Every single one of them gave me inspiration, passing all the love, all the passion to dance, which transformed later on to a very valuable knowledge that I am trying to pass on to my students. I remember when I was a little child, before the dance class would start, while warming my muscles to get ready to dance, I would repeat the names of the dances and the city or the region, where each one is coming from, because my dance instructor Mr. Boris was demanding from us to learn all that. We were supposed to know where the dance is coming from, when would Armenian people dance that dance and in which situations. It was a whole learning process, by the time, we’d think why we are learning all this information, and only years later I realized how much I’m thankful to my teachers for educating me.
hy Armenian folk dance?
As I mentioned, Armenia has the most unique culture. Armenian beautiful girls moving so gracefully, so delicately, on the other side, Armenian strong and powerful men balancing and holding hands like uniting for one idea, there’s a great Armenian word for idea “gaghapar”, now that’s a powerful dance. I remember words of Gevorg Emin, “…and danced Sasoon and the whole world was amazed, and danced Sasoon and the whole world was surprised that it wasn’t a dance but a powerful story of a whole country, where the defeat has got a dignity.” I mean, which else nation has a whole poem dedicated just to dance? I don’t know any, maybe there is, I don’t know. This is about a nation that even when failing it does it with a pride. I can’t imagine a person looking at the Armenian dance and not get excited and emotional.
ow did you start your Academy of Armenian Dance in Las Vegas?
For me opening an Academy was not something that I woke up one day and decided to make money like some entities. I had the background of being an artist of Armenian State Song and Dance Ensemble, I had experience of teaching kids in one of private dance studios in Armenia. So opening my own Academy was always in my mind, even though I studied International Relationship and Diplomacy, dance never stopped in any period of my life to be part of it. I know there was a dance studio here in Vegas opened by a married couple from California a few years ago before I opened my academy. Unfortunately that studio closed and in the whole Vegas there was no one to have the courage and the knowledge to take the responsibility to open another one, until I came to Vegas 6 years ago. I came with a vision, with a plan, I came with experience and the knowledge to take the responsibility to teach the young generation about their culture. I opened the first dance studio in Las Vegas 6 years ago which was called Armenian Dancers of Las Vegas. Later on, it became Armenian Dance Academy of Las Vegas. All my students students followed me into my new academy.
hat are some changes you notice when you look back at your academy?
During the five years of having my academy, it has presented the rich and beautiful culture of Armenia with high standards and quality in the center of the world entertainment, Las Vegas. We’ve performed in multiple reputable, ethnic, international dance competitions and events, including all the Armenian events happening in our community. Our list can go over and over, but some remarkable ones are “I Love Dance” nationwide competition with my adults group getting the first place, “Golden Dream” festival winning the first place, “Rumi Awards” winning the award of best choreography, performing with Armenian pop singer Lilit Hovhannisyan at her concert in Civic Auditorium in California, and many more. This is one reason, I can see the academy growing, having over 50 students at the moment, for which I’m really happy and proud.
ow do you think teaching Armenian Dance contributes to your students self awareness of their origins?
Armenian dance is all about its history. When you dance it, you feel the whole power of our nation, and that’s how I pass it to my students, so they feel like they are part of the strong nation of Armenians and be proud of it.
o you only teach Armenian Dances in your Academy?
The Academy hosts Armenian and International classes for boys and girls of all ages and experience levels enhancing each student’s abilities while emphasizing team-building skills and proper nutrition. We teach not only Armenian, but also international dances like Georgian, Greek, Russian, etc. We have great opportunities coming up for our international and other nation students which will be revealed in the future. Right now, along with Armenian students we have students from different nationalities. So all these folk dances are part of the program, which I think is very good for self development of my students.
re there any age restrictions for people who wants to join your academy?
We accept from 3 years old to 100 years old (laughing). I’m very happy to say that recently, with a lot of parents’ request, we opened moms’ dance classes. They are just amazing. It’s a fun class, since they’re learning Armenian dance and gives the chance to communicate and learn Armenian dance. During our outside evening gatherings and dinner parties they always perform. So really there are no age restrictions, I can say.
hat are some details that you’ve noticed in your students’ behavior that even though are fascinating and impressive, you can’t tell them straight?
I think the success of my academy is built on that honest and trustworthy relationships that I have between me and my students. I know there are and will be times when I need to be more patient or have different approaches to them. I don’t see any reason not to tell them how amazing they are, how beautifully they do the moves, and the same way to tell them about the mistakes and how to correct them. The fact that all my students followed me, means that whatever I’ve done so far it’s implementing their education.
ow do you deal with a situation when you’re teaching a quite easy move to your student, but she/he doesn’t know how to perform it?
When you’re a teacher, you’re expecting that they are not going to learn the move right away (smiling). This is why you teaching, and should be ready for situations like this. In any case, you have to find the reason why it’s happening. If you think the move is easy but for some reason they are not getting it, there could many reasons: maybe child is tires, maybe he/she is disturbed by something, and on and on. For every reason you’ve got to find a different approach. So before taking the responsibility to teach, you have to be a little psychologist, to be patient and understanding the situations. My goal is whatever happens in the class, or what turns it takes during the class time, to make the class enjoyable, fun, energetic and professional at the same time.
s there anything else you do besides of choreographing and teaching dance?
I’m in a real estate business. I help people to sell, buy, or rent houses, and my dance academy helps me a lot. The trustworthy relationship that I have with my parents makes them give me referrals or even become my clients themselves.
Out of Box
hich three things would you save from a fire in your house?
I was thinking about my wallet to have some cash, second is my case with all the important documents, and the third one is maybe my car keys.
inish the poem. “ Roses are red, violets are blue, I climbed Eiffel Tower,…
Having no clue, what kind of challenges I’d be through.
Look at me now, and my academy,
Armenian dance forever in my community.
f you were named a different name , what would you name yourself?
My parents named me after my grandmother Gohar, and I love my name. I think they chose the right name and wouldn’t like to change it at all.
hat’s your favorite candy?
My taste has changed so much throughout the years. I loved all kinds of candies and chocolates when I was just a kid. My favorite was Kinder Surprise, because it wasn’t just a chocolate egg but it had a toy inside, which I used to collect. Right now, I like dark chocolate with my coffee (laughing).
ontinue the analogy. Brain to heart as man to …
Woman, maybe because heart cannot exist without brain. Brain may be dead and heart will still beat. But at the same time, who needs a heart with no brain. I’m thinking it’s just like the relationship between a man and a woman.