Armenian Reporter – 6/23/2007 – arts and culture section

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June 23, 2007 — From the Arts & Culture section

To see the printed version of the newspaper, complete with photographs and
additional content, visit and download the pdf files. It’s

1. Looking Fallward #1: Poetry
2. Looking Fallward #2: Women artists
3. Looking Fallward #3: Mark your calendar
4. Looking Fallword #4: Short films

5. Theater: An exhilarating "Sojourn" (reviewed by Aram Kouyoumdjian)

6. Film: Capturing the full Vartanank experience
* Ishkhan Jinbashian talks to filmmaker Roger Kupelian

7. Art: The "small novels" of Kadjick Hakobian (by Gregory Lima)

8. Fashion: If clothes make the man, Garo makes the stars (by Lory
* Master tailor dresses Who’s Who of Hollywood

9. Music: Outdoor jazz fun for jazz fans (by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian)
* Music and a good time outdoors on a bright and breezy summer afternoon
were all one could breathe at Yerevan’s Cascade

10. Music: The return of baroque (by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian)
* 2nd Yerevan baroque music festival celebrates beauty and order in music

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1. Looking Fallward #1: Poetry

The Armenian Reporter is so forward-looking that we’ve invented a word for
the four items appearing in this week’s arts briefs: fallward. Yes, summer’s
just began, this season’s blockbusters are already out in theaters, you’ve
bought your copy of Viken Berberian’s new book (see excerpt on pages
C22-C23), so we are taking a sneak peak at fall, and we have some items of
interest. The first is a poetry jam in the Big Apple. If you want to share
your poetry with a live audience, you may consider participating in the
Armenian Contemporary Poetry Reading. As part of the Armenian Women’s Art
Exhibition, the reader will take place Friday, October 5 at the Village
Quill in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. Lola Koundakjian is
curating the poetry reading as a special edition of the Armenian Poetry
Project, a poetry blog and poetry podcasting service. Anyone interested in
submitting his or her poetry, connect with Lola via e-mail. The deadline for
submitting a sample is September 6.

[email protected]

2. Looking Fallward #2: Women artists

Thirty bucks buys you an entrée into a juried art expo titled, "The Armenian
Women’s Art Exhibition." Organized by a web design and artists’ consulting
business, the expo will take place from October 4 to November 3 at the
Village Quill in TriBeCa, New York City. "This exhibition will strive to
strengthen the social network between Armenian Artists, who live in the
Diaspora, while examining how the roots of their shared Armenian heritage
interplays with the uniqueness of their individual experiences," says the
expo’s press release. Sound like a thesis abstract to us, so you may want to
read that sentence again and tell us what it really means. Kidding aside,
the big arts festival is a chance for artists to show off their creativity,
and all media are welcomed. You know, pay your fee, send your mac ‘n’ cheese
and suntan lotion mixed-media creation, show up, check out the zeitgeist, be
part of the show’s cool catalog. The creative director and president of
Razleen is Armin Herabit. The exhibition curators are art historian Tamar
Gasparyan-Chester and artist Anet Abnous. The deadline for entries is July


3. Looking Fallward #3: Mark your calendar

Eileen Karakashian’s interest in color, texture, and use of space is
reflected in her fall solo exhibition at the Piermont Flywheel Gallery.
Karakashian’s recent work explores femininity, fashion, and color theory.
Comprised of acrylic and oil paintings with mixed media, the exhibition
fluidly interweaves abstraction, surrealism and expressionism. Karakashian’s
technique is characterized by strong color palettes and textures juxtaposed
with clean basic lines. Karakashian’s previous show featured artwork
incorporating wine labels with paints. "Texture is important in my artwork,
because it creates depth and liveliness in a painting just as it does in
life," says Eileen. "The use of color is also an important element in a
painting, because color defines our moods, thoughts, and perceptions. Color
is the backdrop to our lives. I want my work to have soulfullness to it —
to speak and reveal itself to any intuitive audience." The exhibition will
take place from September 20 to October 7 at the Piermont Flywheel Gallery
in Piermont, NY.



4. Looking Fallword 4: Short films

Armenian filmmakers or short films with Armenian themes or characters will
be featured on a new show on Horizon TV. The weekly show, premiering this
fall, will be hosted by Vahe Berberian (featured on the cover of the March
31 Arts & Culture section). Films that will be considered should be between
one and 15 minutes in length and submitted via DVD. Filmmakers should also
submit a short biography and information about the film.

[email protected]

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5. Theater: An exhilarating "Sojourn"

reviewed by Aram Kouyoumdjian

Armenia’s glorious and tragic history — as told by its poets — is
dramatized in the 70 poignant and inspiring minutes of "Sojourn at Ararat."

This English-language performance piece, created by Gerald Papasian and
Nora Armani, follows a young couple’s fantastical journey through time, from
Armenia’s pre-Christian era to its modern day. A story of survival and
renewal, "Sojourn" is composed of poems that span a millennium (from the age
of Narekatsi), though, for the most part, the selections feature the works
of modern writers, both from Armenia and the Diaspora. They range in tone
from lyrical (Missak Medzarents) to satirical (Hovhannes Toumanyan), from
somber to hopeful.

Papasian and Armani have performed "Sojourn" around the world for the past
two decades. Now, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, the show has been
revived at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, where Korken Alexander and
Mary Kate Schellhardt have inherited the challenging text and its

The beauty of the poetry in "Sojourn" hardly surprises anyone familiar
with the verse of such masters as Paruyr Sevak, whose "Good Day" opens and
closes the play, or Vahan Tekeyan, whose "Prayer on the Threshold of
Tomorrow" toys with perfection. Still, poems do not turn into drama unless
expert hands like Papasian and Armani weave them together and infuse them
with theatricality. In "Sojourn," a comic fable, such as Toumanyan’s "A Drop
of Honey," may well be followed by a Genocide poem. The juxtaposition may
seem jarring in concept but works in execution, since the fable ends with a
senseless slaughter — and serves as an allegory for massacre. Through such
meticulous sequencing, Papasian and Armani frame their pastiche with a
strong dramatic arc, while their superb translations capture the voices of
their source authors with both authenticity and artistry.

Armani directs the piece on a nearly-bare stage with graceful simplicity,
using a minimal number of props. An apron and a scarf serve multiple
purposes, as do a few crumpled sheets of paper, which, at different points
in the show, come to represent letters of the Armenian alphabet, lentils to
be sorted from stones, remnants of destroyed households, and chillingly
enough, the outline of a corpse.

While spare, the staging does not lack richness, thanks to Armani’s
vibrant choreography of movement and Henrik Mansourian’s thoughtful lighting
design, built around the red, blue, and orange hues of the Armenian tricolor
flag. The flow of amber gives the production a glow, while Mansourian’s
striking uses of contrast — in such pieces as Siamanto’s "The Dance" —
make for memorable visual images.

The lights are in perfect harmony with Maro Parian’s set, which mirrors
the tricolor scheme in the vast drapes that form its background (albeit in
muted pastels to match the earth tones of the stage flooring). Still,
Parian’s drapes cast their own sheen at times, and, in their expanse, attest
to the span of Armenian history, while with their wavy undulations, they
delicately reflect the peaks and valleys of that history — and of the
landscape on which it has unfolded.

In a remarkable performance, Schellhardt does not act out that history —
but lives it. Whether reveling in the grandeur of Armenia’s past or mourning
its demise, Schellhardt remains consistently genuine and profoundly moving,
without compromising restraint or subtlety. The depth of feeling that she
brings to a poem like Tekeyan’s "It’s Raining, My Son" — in which a mother
tells her child to let out his tears so that he can grow from boy to man —
pierces the viewer with emotion.

Even Schellhardt’s silent moments are devastating in their power. Her
depiction of an Armenian woman deported from her home and embarking on a
life of exile is stunningly impactful. With minute shifts in facial
expression and detailed gestures, Schellhardt portrays the woman as
shell-shocked by her circumstances and trying to comprehend what has been
lost, even as she desperately picks up the pieces she can and gathers the
strength to endure. Watching traces of fatigue and weariness alter
Schellhardt’s youthful figure is simply a marvel.

An equally convincing performance eludes Alexander, though not for lack of
proficiency. An obviously seasoned actor with a good voice, Alexander knows
technique, but his over-reliance on it works to his detriment. His
physicalization of "A Taste of Honey," for instance, turns busy with
slapstick, while the play’s critical scene of deportation and exile suffers
misplaced romanticism due to his fixed gaze into the distance and his
all-too-measured steps that verge on the balletic. The spirit and verve that
Alexander brings to the role, however, lends the play a propulsive energy.

Given such dynamic performances, intelligent direction, and a script born
out of the best poetry that the Armenian literary tradition has to offer,
one would do best to embark on this "Sojourn" with haste, before the
opportunity, like the beholders of Ararat’s sacred view (to borrow Avetik
Issahakyan’s phrase), will pass on.

* * *

Aram Kouyoumdjian is the winner of Elly Awards for both playwriting ("The
Farewells") and directing ("Three Hotels"). His latest work is "Velvet

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6. Film: Capturing the full Vartanank experience

* Ishkhan Jinbashian talks to filmmaker Roger Kupelian

Roger Kupelian wants to take you on a journey. He wants to give you a bird’s
eye view of history as it unfurls in the year 451, in a country that stood
its ground despite having all the cards stacked against it. In doing so,
Kupelian also wants to provide you with a sensual and emotional experience
that top-notch filmmaking is apt to pull off: a sweeping epic brimming with
power politics, palace intrigue, moral and ethical conundrum, gorgeous
visuals that recreate 5th-century Armenia down to architecture, topography,
costumes, and weapons, and a soundtrack that’s menacing and sublime in equal

Three years in the making, Kupelian’s project, a three-part miniseries, is
called East of Byzantium: Fugitives and Princes. The title of the docudrama
is a reference to the lands of Armenia and Persia, and the men who rose from
improbable circumstances to deliver one of the defining moments of Armenian
history, the Battle of Avarayr.

In presenting the Vartanank story, Kupelian doesn’t see the point of
dwelling on the longstanding Vartan Mamigonian-Vasak Syuni controversy.
Rather, his interest lies mainly in the larger issues at stake, such as
freedom of faith, collective integrity, and the limits of imperial hubris,
which transcend historic figures even while hinging on their actions.

Today Kupelian is recognized as one of the world’s top visual-effects
artists, with a resume that can leave one gasping: senior matte painter of
the Lord of the Rings trilogy (which earned the Oscar and BAFTA awards for
visual effects), digital matte artist of The Chronicles of Riddick, and
visual-effects work on Flags of Our Fathers, Mission to Mars, and Six Feet
Under, among a long string of others. Kupelian is also a writer and
director, with credits including the documentary films Dark Forest in the
Mountains and Hands and a Homeland, his twin odes to Artsakh.

This year, fresh out of his stint as creative director on Labou, an
adventure film by director Greg Aronowitz, Kupelian launched Fugitive
Studios, his own film-production and visual-effects company, in Los Angeles.

Fugitive Studios specializes in creating digital environments for
commercials, music videos, and feature movies. This is also where East of
Byzantium is currently being incubated, in painstaking detail. Kupelian has
dedicated an entire wing of his studio to the project, with a long wall
featuring the nuts and bolts of the Vartanank story: renderings of
background scenery, costumes, and armaments, bits of research text,
storyboards. With the distinct eloquence of someone behind an idea whose
time has come, and not particularly caring to hide his enthusiasm, Kupelian
will give you a snapshot of the project as he points to the images on the
wall. Minutes later, when he shows you a trailer of East of Byzantium and
you get the adrenalin rush, you’ll have no doubt as to where he’s coming

My subsequent interview with Kupelian was done through the ether of e-mail
— perhaps a fitting conduit for an interview subject who is at home as much
in the world of letters as the eye-popping visual vistas of digital

Q: In the past few years, you have dedicated considerable energy to the
development of the East of Byzantium project. What drew you to the events
and key figures of the Battle of Avarayr, the central theme of the film?

A: The situation in Armenia could go off at any minute. We’re surrounded
by enemies that want to crush us and allies who can be unreliable. It’s the
story of our existence as a nation that we’re always in danger of
disappearing. To me someone standing his or her ground in spite of great
odds is the reason we have endured. And that is what Avarayr is. Standing up
to the big guys for what you hold true inside you. Also, being a big
Kurosawa fan, I’d say the similarity our great princely houses had to the
Samurai, with their honor codes, etc., makes it universally appealing.

Q: Would it be fair to say that you have an affinity for the outsider, the

A: The United States started out as an underdog, and despite how much
power it has now, Americans still vouch for the underdog in every heroic
story Hollywood produces. Interestingly, Rome started out as a bunch of
underdogs as well.

Q: If you found yourself in a tea house sitting next to General Vartan
Mamigonian and he asked you for a wish, what would you tell him?

A: I’d ask him to go to Armenia with his army again, as he is needed now
more than ever.

Q: What about Vasak Syuni, arguably the most vilified figure in Armenian

A: I’d ask him to go along as well to work on our foreign policy. Vasak
was a skilled politician, acting out of expedience and defending the
interests of a rival clan to the Mamigonians. Nobles in Armenia were no
different than nobles in any other part of the world in that respect. These
days, Vartan and Vasak would see how precarious the situation is and put
their differences aside hopefully. Back then there was no Internet or CNN so
their worlds were insular. Now we all ought to know better.

Q: What are some of the core parallels that make the story of East of
Byzantium relevant to modern life?

A: Starting from the first episode of the miniseries, we establish
characters that are looking for a home, a place they can put their roots
down and defend to the death, if just for the safety of their families. Many
today are still locked in that struggle and over almost the same parts of
the world. In the span of the planet, 1,500 was not that long ago. Many are
still locked in those kinds of struggles.

Q: Perhaps your overarching challenge in this project has been the
faithful rendition, both textually and esthetically, of the historic
backdrop and actual events of Vartanants. What are some of the problems of
reenacting a metadrama that took place more than 15 centuries ago?

A: Our mindsets are different and honor does not mean as much as it did.
Also, a lot of history is deduction at this point. Scholars argue over
everything from the roots of certain noble families to the actual events as
they played out. Despite the tons of research we have been doing, in the
end, we will play to the legend. We’re more concerned with the meaning
behind the events as they relate to us.

Q: Spectacle has an instrumental role in your narrative. Beyond the sheer
sensual excitement, what is the emotional function of sweeping visuals on

A: Visuals can say more, much more, than mere words and so can sound.
Successfully combining visuals with a unique musical experience produces
something like a religious experience.

Q: In East of Byzantium, duty is often necessarily elevated to the plane
of the heroic. Would you agree with that necessity? And what are the
consequences of such heroism?

A: The consequence is that you would be asked to give your life. We live
in cynical times, when duty has been cast against the light of corporate
greed. Nowadays it’s tougher to head out to a dangerous situation and fight
for some cause as many are not as naïve (at least in the same ways) as we
used to be. Look at human existence closely, though. An army of volunteers
is always more powerful than an army of slaves. Duty is something you choose
to follow, whereas an obligation is cast on you. If you were a people in
Asia Minor at the time, and not Roman or Persian, you had some empire trying
to kill you and drag off your family. Either submit or fight. If you fought,
you could die. If you submitted, you could fade away.

Q: How do you think your experience as a visual-effects artist with films
such as The Lord of the Rings and Flags of Our Fathers has shaped your
approach to your current project?

A: The project is the message in this case, and the films you mentioned
were the result of great passion, where effects were not the star but
augmented the story. My approach is very visual so obviously I have brought
people on to work on the story and all its nuances. If you look at 300 and
other such films, you realize that there is a lot of power a visually
stylized storytelling approach can have. Film does not have to be high art
to be good, but it does have this solid combination of technology and art.

Q: As you continue to develop East of Byzantium, do you have a target
audience in mind, or do you believe the film would have universal appeal and

A: I would not be making this project if I did not feel that it was
universal in its meaning and appeal, yet in another sense, I am, first and
foremost, my target audience, and am making something I believe in,
something I personally would like to see on the screen. That is the
foundation of every successful work of art. That means our target
demographic would be anyone who loved Braveheart, Gladiator, The Lord of the
Rings, or 300.

Q: Why would Armenian audiences, in the U.S. and elsewhere, care about
this project?

A: Ironically, I’ve worked with far more non-Armenians, from New Zealand
to Hollywood, on a story about Vartan Mamigonian. There is something
intrinsically fascinating about the events and people that led up to the
battle of Avarayr (and beyond). It’s not about some mythical story we get
spoon-fed as kids, but a story about real people with dirty fingernails,
people we would care about. As a father-to-be, I would want our next
generation to have a very strong idea of who we were and who we can yet
become. There’s this biblical saying about the duty of parents to children,
"which parent, when his child asks for bread, will give that child a stone?"
I guess it depends on what Armenian parents want to pass on to their kids.

Q: For all intents and purposes, East of Byzantium seems to be the
ultimate labor of love for you. But beyond the obvious sense of fulfillment,
how has it affected you as a writer, director, and visual-effects artist?

A: It’s streamlined things, and there’s much more at stake now. I’ve been
fortunate that at this point that passion to complete East of Byzantium has
attracted very talented people that have seen that same vision and want to
be part of it. History will be the judge of our labors, in the end, but then
again, history is always the judge.

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7. Art: The "small novels" of Kadjick Hakobian

by Gregory Lima

At the Gabone Art Gallery near Yerevan’s Cascade, at 2 Tamanyan Street, a
well-lighted portrait easily seen through the two-story-high plate glass at
the entrance invited attention to an exhibition of the work of Kadjick
Hakobian. It was a portrait of a young family. As a group they appeared as
freshly green and verdant as early springtime, standing as straight and tall
as their full heights permit. In the very center of the portrait in pride of
place is a large green plant with tender leaves. If this is springtime in
the lives of this young Armenian family, they seemed to have been well
soaked in its nourishing rains and each reaching to its sunshine. This
painter’s brush spoke of youth and hope.

The next step into the gallery and the world changed.

The contrast is stark and unsettling. The lush brush aglow with the rising
sap of springtime has been cast aside. To reverse Keats: If spring comes, is
winter far behind?

Between the entrance portrait and the next step, years have gone by. A
devastating earthquake has ripped the scenery, Armenia has shaken off the
grip of its commissars but is in a bloody conflict with Azerbaijan in the
struggle for the independence of Karabakh; towns and villages have been
forcibly emptied and again we find columns of refugees on the roads;
blockades are squeezing the country from the outside while the oligarchs are
putting the country into their pockets from the inside; severe shortages
wrack the economy and unemployment is leading to large-scale migration; in
the arts Socialist Realism is out and every previously forbidden abstraction
has trooped in. It is Armenia in the end years of the 20th century.

Just walking the short steps in the room across the landscape of the
exhibition, and standing before the work of Kadjick Hakobian done in 1998
and into 1999, left me limp with emotional exhaustion. In them I read a
narrative of the struggle of his time.

* In exalted company

Kadjick Hakobian did not live out the year 1999. But in the short months
before he died in poverty in Etchmaidzin, where he was born and painted, he
left a body of original work that put him in the exalted company of
Armenia’s leading artists of the 20th century.

This status is compressed into the output of little more than a year of
his work when "Kadjick Hakopian discovered himself like a miracle,"
according to the poet Eduard Hakhverdyan. He "fell into his inner world."

By 1996, according to his son Hakob, he could no longer afford canvas and
could barely afford paint. In his cellar studio he experimented with ink and
paint on paper. It was at that time he first began to work in an entirely
different graphic style, returning from experiments in abstract art to
figurative painting that could start as virtual scribbles in India ink.
These inky figures taking shape as he scratched with his pen seemed to
emerge from an interior world — strange humanoid shapes, deformed, even
grotesque but with an otherworldly power. Soon the figures began to take
more definitive contours and locate themselves in a ticking sense of time
and in a particular landscape.

The landscape as he extended it was Armenia devoid of distractions and
sentiment. It was Armenia seen as a thin stretch of home located at the
barren edge of nowhere else. It was a question of either living here or very
far away — too far away. The dilemmas he projects are whether to go or to
stay. There is little here at home. All the family has doesn’t fill a donkey

Hakobian’s figures inhabit a world in which only the most fundamental
human values have survived: family, friendship, and the sometimes glimmer of
hope or is it despair that can set you off on a journey with all you have
left in that donkey cart or in a frail boat across a vast expanse of a
drowning sea. The distortions spoke in a distinctive graphic language to the
Armenia of his daily experience as he began to add color to his figures.

* The colors of stone

He developed a style that has none of the fruit basket of colors that
Martiros Saryan with his joyful landscapes offered to the viewer, the
profound beauty still to be found in the eye of the beholder as solace for
sorrow and despair. Instead Kadjick Hakobian chose the muted colors of tufa,
the colors not of fertile fields but of Armenia’s stiff cliff faces and
stone walls. And he seemed to draw now with the edge of a stick on clay or
with the sharp edge of a chisel on bare rock. He depicted an Armenia that
exists solely in the landscape of the mind, an Armenia still on the edge of
the sea. In his later work this sea is never distant from where he beckons
us to stand and where he stands. He locates the viewer in the Biblical
devastation where even today the vast flood waters have barely receded from

If he seems to be scratching his figures with a stick in damp clay, it is
a far remove from the Ervand Kochar of 1939 with his choice of a
reinvigorated rock art in his telling of the epic saga of David of Sassoon.

As depicted by Hakobian, Armenia has been worn down and we are in a
different age; the hero of Sassoon may have won his latest epic battles but
he has come down from his pedestal. He still has his extraordinarily
beautiful steed, the living symbol of the nation, but he may give it up, for
he is virtually destitute and in rags. He has married. Under his hat he
carries the cares and worries of his family.

The critic and director of the Yerevan Museum of Modern Art, Henry
Igityan, in his preface to the catalog of the exhibition, relates the
paintings to a series of "small novels." If each tells a story, how shall we
read them?

His son Hakob who has also become a painter was little help in this. He
said his father "went down to the cellar to paint every day but he never
brought his work to the table, never talking about how it went, never
feeling the need to explain why or what he was painting. He was deeply moved
by the family experience of the Genocide, especially of our grandmother who
had lived in Western Armenia on the shores of Lake Van. He had internalized
her perilous journey from Vaspurakan to Etchmiadzin. He lived in his own
time, but very likely," Hakob ventured, "the journeys of the survivors of
the Genocide has affected all he has drawn on paper."

A gracefully curved boat on the shore, which appears again and again as a
motif of departure in his paintings, suggests the Armenian vessels that
plied Lake Van. They were constructed with a single mast from the stands of
poplars cultivated near the shore. The yard spar that held the sail made a
cross signalling Christian ships, at home in the waters of beautiful
Aghtamar. These Armenian vessels also had oars. But Hakobian located them
well beyond Van, sailing them off to the edge of the world.

* A dramatic duo

In the sequence of drawings there is one titled "Hesitation." We are on a
shore. There is a moored boat. The wife and child dressed for the journey
are already seated in the small vessel and the oar needed to propel them is
at the ready where he will sit. He holds the reins of the beautiful steed
who has brought them this far. This is the moment of parting. Yet he is
hesitant to let go of the reins. In the background are some towers and
nondescript buildings that suggest a city empty of sentiment.

If this is a "small novel" will our hero leave Armenia? Will he cross the
vast waters to the other world? What is the meaning of the saddled steed
that is larger than the moored boat?

Part of a series done just before he died, this painting has two parts
that are beautiful: the mother and child that are his family, and secondly
the patient steed with hoofs that have followed him into the water, the
steed that is his nation and will be left behind. Can he do it? Can David of
Sassoon leave his beloved steed which is the symbol of his nation?

Whatever was decided in that moment, Hakobian cannot let him go. He brings
him back in a painting called "Return." Here the boat has grown a tall mast,
but the sail is in tatters and it is beached. It is unlikely he will leave
again. He is with his steed. If the steed is the nation, it actually looks
happy he has returned. His young son seems to be growing up both
affectionate and strong.

Kadjik Hakopian, who died while still a young man, in his last works
regained, I believe, the optimism expressed in the green painting at the
outset, and now he felt that things are going to turn out all right. I think
these two paintings taken together sum up his last years. They are a gift to
the Armenia of the 21 st century.

Not all the paintings are concerned with high drama. There is a
composition that he called "Musicians." It depicts three instrumentalists in
a boat. It may say many things, but to me it expresses a kind of freedom
that the musicians themselves find in the music. It is as if with music you
become part of the wind in the sails of a vessel, free of boundaries,
voyager to all the worlds you love and those still to be discovered.

* A sense of humor

And there is a painting he calls "Close Friends." Interpret it differently,
but this one made me laugh. At first glance the only thing close about these
two women is where they live. Each sees the world from an exactly opposite
direction. But this may be the reason they need each other. As a composition
they mimic or rhyme with the shape of the sailboat. They are positioned
similar to its sails. Even the carpets they lie or sit on are no more
fastened to the ground than the boat. It invests them with the kind of
probable mobility that defies a vegetable clinging to one’s set place even
when defined in a marked area on the ground. Seen this way, the painting
becomes warm and shifting, sailing, under the reddening sky and it is easy
to imagine intimate adventures past and perhaps more wondrous adventures
this pair will experience, together and apart, in all the days of their
youth ahead.

Hakop said his mother is in New York City trying to arrange for a showing
of the paintings there. If she is successful, the works of Kadjik Hakobian
may come to America in the very near future, preferably as precious cargo
aboard one of his dreamboats.

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8. Fashion: If clothes make the man, Garo makes the stars

* Master tailor dresses Who’s Who of Hollywood

by Lory Tatoulian

LOS ANGELES — Tucked away on a modest street here is one of the most
successful tailor shops in town. Onik’s Tailor Shop is owned by Garo
Ashikian, a tailor who has become one of the most celebrated designers for
men’s dancewear in America.

For many years Garo has been working diligently designing men’s dancewear
for A-list celebrities, but his talents were brought into the spotlight when
his suits danced their way onto the popular TV show, Dancing with the Stars.

"For the past three seasons I have been working with Dancing with the
Stars," Garo says. "When I go to the taping of the show, all the actors
recognize me and thank me for the work I have done for them. I have worked
with John O’Hurley, Jerry Rice, Master P, and Joey McIntyre. It feels
rewarding when they thank me and appreciate the work I have created."

Dancing With the Stars is a hit CBS TV series, where eleven celebrities
are paired with professional dancers to perform a dance routine in front of
the judges.

Garo Ashikian is not only a recognizable name in Hollywood circles, but
his tailor shop is known all over the country and the world. His clients are
primarily based in the U.S. and Canada. He is identified as one of the
premier tailors in the international dance world and receives calls from
dancers who want to place orders on custom-made dance suits.

In the subculture of professional dancing, everyone knows Onik’s Tailor
shop. Dancers flock to Onik, because they know that they are always going to
get the finest cut, even on short notice.

"My product’s quality is the best," says Garo. "I only use the best
fabrics, and I make sure the suits have a clean cut. Most of my tuxedos are
made with the traditional fabrics of wool, but in dancewear, there is fine
line between making a suit that looks excellent and also making a suit that
is comfortable enough for the dancer to move in."

The master tailor emphasizes that the unrestricted mobility a dancer needs
to feel can only be possible if "the suit fits perfectly like a glove. That
is the trick."

Garo not only designs, but he is known for making the two-piece tail suit
popular among professional dancers across international ballrooms.

In the United Sates, dancers usually wore one-piece tail suites; but after
dancers began wearing Garo’s two-piece tail suits, the standards were set in
the ballroom dancing community and now male dancers only wears two-piece
tail suits.

Previous to Dancing with the Stars, Garo spent years making suits for
Hollywood big names. Many celebrities have donned his suits in movies —
from Antonio Banderas in Taking the Lead to Richard Gere in Shall We Dance?

Garo had been designing suites for more than 39 years. He graduated from
the Fashion Institute in Armenia in 1975 and began working with Italian
designers. Eventually, he became chief designer for the Designing House of

In 1980, Garo moved to Los Angles and opened his own little tailor shop
called Onik’s. "I decided to call my tailor shop Onik’s because that is my
father’s name," he says. "My real name is Karapet, but I felt this name
would be too difficult for Americans to pronounce. So I stuck with the
simple name of Onik."

When Garo first opened up the tailor shop, he was doing alterations and
very little tailoring, even though he had so much experience. He remembers
the hardships of starting a brand-new business in a new country.

"When I first began working here, it was almost embarrassing," Garo
explains, "because business was very slow, the demand for custom-made suits
was not very high during that time. In Armenia, I was a professional in my
field, and I came here. It was very difficult to get the business off the
ground. But I love what I do so much that I continued tailoring clothes."

Clientele began to grow when dancers from a studio located down the street
from Onik’s discovered the tailor shop. They began bringing their suits to
Garo for alterations. The dancers were so impressed with his work that they
began recommending Garo to all of their friends.

Word-of-mouth advertising was so effective that soon Garo’s name became
fashionable on dance floors across the globe.

"My fist success came when I made the first tail suit for Victor
Veyrasset, when he became a U.S. champion," says Garo. "From then on, I
began tailoring for other professional dancers and my reputation started to

Today, Garo is proud to be established as one the best tailors who makes
the perfect suit. He is hesitant to parlay how many hours a day he works,
but a typical day consists of starting at eight in the morning and
continuing until ten at night. His long works hours are primarily due to the
fact that the television studios give him such short notice. Studios
typically need the suits to be done in a matter of days. Helping him meet
the deadlines is his wife, Loucine, who also puts in long hours, assisting
Garo and making sure that all the orders for suits are completed.

"Working with Dancing with the Stars," says Garo, "there are definite time
restrictions. I would attend a design meeting at CBS on a Wednesday, and
eleven suits needed to be completed by Friday. The challenge is not only
making the suits, but making sure everything is intact. The dancers cannot
be falling or tripping over their clothes; the cut and the length have to be

Hollywood studios acknowledge the efficiency and high quality of Garo’s
work. Hollywood came to Garo because of the recommendations professional
dancers would give to the studios. Garo was not hawking his products, and
the studios wanted to work with him based on the notoriety and respect he
received from dancers.

Currently, Garo is working on a new season with Dancing with the Stars.

"It was very exciting to be at the live tapings," he says, "and then go
home and watch the show on my TV. It is a thrill to see my work, my designs
be used in the realm of television."

When the show is being aired, Garo will receive phone call from his two
children, Nazely and Aram, expressing how proud they are of their father.

With a subtle chuckle Garo explains, "My daughter who is in medical school
will call me and tell me how happy she is for me, and my son’s friends
consider me a celebrity."

Garo says he enjoys hearing from his kids but also hearing praise from
customers who see his work on television or in the movies.

"I have been wanting to be a tailor ever since I was little boy," he says.
"I enjoy the craft so much, and now seeing the dancers move in my clothes
provides me with self-edification. It gives me the power to continue my

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9. Music: Outdoor jazz fun for jazz fans

* Music and a good time outdoors on a bright and breezy summer afternoon
were all one could breathe at Yerevan’s Cascade

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

That is what thousands of locals and visitors in Yerevan got on June 15 at
the Gerard L. Cafesjian Center for the Arts, where lots of fine options were
offered to jazz lovers.

The one-day festival featured five jazz bands, four of which are
nationally recognized names in the Armenian music scene. The band concluding
the list of performers was Bobby Sanabria and his band, ¡Quarteto Aché!,
whose Latin jazz beats are quite popular in the United States.

The second in this summer’s lineup of free outdoor concerts organized by
the Cafesjian Museum Foundation at Yerevan’s Cascade, the jazz evening was
co-organized by the Embassy of the United States.

This collaboration is reasonable enough. Jazz is widely considered an
American cultural invention and is often referred to as "America’s classical
music." But jazz has the quality of easily integrating into other styles of
music, smoothly embracing ethnic and folk music elements, and leaving plenty
of room for improvisation.

The jazz evening at the Cascade was in fact all that: authentic jazz with
lots of flavors of Armenian folk and Latin jazz, and plenty of
improvisation, offered to a city that loves jazz, has its own national jazz
band founded back in 1938, and has had an international jazz festival since

Trying to appeal to a wide spectrum of jazz fans in Armenia, the Cascade
jazz evening was a little bit of everything that jazz can offer. The options
ranged from smooth to free or avant-garde jazz, Latin jazz, folk and ethnic
jazz, fusion, and other variations.

On a temporary stage set up at the core of downtown Yerevan, at the foot
of the Cascade, the bands played various tunes of jazz for an audience
comfortably seated on and around the cascade of stairs, in the neighboring
outdoor cafés, at the foot of that big, black, friendly cat of Botero’s,
even on the balconies of old stone buildings and tasteful new ones from
architect Alexander Tamanian’s statue up to the top of the stairs.

The concert attracted a growing audience from late afternoon until late
evening. There was good music and fun in the air, as many had given in to
the beats of music, and some were dancing in the space between the stage and
the stairs.

The opening act of the concert was a half-hour performance by Art Voices.
Since its inception in 2005, Art Voices has managed to take part in many
prestigious music festivals and perform at the acclaimed Parisian club "Le
Baisé Salé." The relaxed waves of smooth jazz combined with the melodies of
folk jazz soon grew out into more vibrant rhythms.

Next it was the turn of The Zoo to take center stage.

This was the premiere public appearance of the very young band, although
its members have had many separate performances in Yerevan and the regions
of Armenia. The quartet has a particularity: it lacks keyboards, which makes
it the first in its kind in Armenia. The music of The Zoo is mainly based on
liberal use of improvisation, based on acoustic funk rhythms.

After this engaging warm up, the stage was conquered by Vahagn Hairapetian
and his friends, "Katouner" (Cats).

Vahagn Hairapetian and Katouner is a well known and popular band in
Armenia. Vahagn Hairapetian is one of the best-known figures of contemporary
Armenian pop-jazz. Since 2004, the septet has navigated the waves of auteur
pop jazz with the spirit of folk fantasies. In May 2007 Vahagn Hairapetian
and his cats released their very first album, "Norevan."

Members of Vahagn Hairapetian and Katouner also perform with the Armenian
Navy Band of Arto Tunçboyaciyan, but manage to maintain their own musical
profile and direction when performing on their own.

Likewise, most members of The Time Report, the next band to take the
stage, perform in the Armenian Navy Band.

"One of the positive aspects of the Armenian Navy band phenomenon is that
it motivated its musicians in a way that many formed their own bands in
parallel," says Arthur Ispirian, the events coordinator at the Cafesjian
Museum Foundation.

The main quality of Time Report is in its exquisite fusion of Armenian
folk instruments like duduk and zurna with the sax and drums.

The final act of the jazz evening introduced one of the champions of Latin
and Afro-Cuban jazz to the Armenian audience. The audience delved into the
Latin jazz and music of Bobby Sanabria and his band, the ¡Quarteto Aché!
where acclaimed Armenian pianist Armen Donelian performs as a featured solo

The New York Times has called Armen Donelian "a pianist with a crystalline
touch, but a penchant for avant-gardism." Leader of his own quintet and
trio, Donelian is composer of 100 works, and has produced ten critically
acclaimed recordings, of which is his latest CD is "All or nothing at all."

Multiple Grammy nominee and the recipient of many awards, Bobby Sanabria
is recognized for his important contributions to music and the arts as a
jazz drummer, percussionist, composer, and arranger, to mention some. One of
the several small group settings shaped for his albums is the band ¡Quarteto
Aché! shaped for his latest album bearing the same name.

The overall mosaic pictured at the concert was dominated by the colors of
jazz rock and fusion, toward a conclusion flavored with Latin Jazz. "All
that is punctuated with colorful elements of Armenian folk and ethnic
jazz,", says Ispirian.

This jazz evening was not the last of the Cascade summer concerts in the
jazz scene. After featuring acclaimed Armenian auteur musicians Rouben
Hakhverdian, Lilit Pipoyan, and Vahan Ardzrouni on June 20, the Cafesjian
Museum Foundation will continue its outdoor jazz excursions on July 5, when
the Armenian national jazz band will take the stage for another high-energy


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10. Music: The return of baroque

* 2nd Yerevan baroque music festival celebrates beauty and order in music

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

A reawakening of baroque and Renaissance music in Armenia is the news.

An aspiration to reset the performance traditions of early music in
Yerevan planted the seeds of the first-ever baroque music festival in
Armenia in summer 2005.

The brainchild of the Naregatsi Art Institute and maestro Aram Talalian of
the Komitas State String Quartet, the Yerevan Baroque music festival returns
these days with much more rigor.

"Performing baroque music strictly differs from contemporary, romantic,
and other musical styles. It requires special education," explains Aram
Talalian. He adds that not everyone with a musical education can play
16th-17th century music.

Over the past two decades the culture of authentically performing early
music has lagged behind in Armenia. A need to bring baroque music to the
public was felt so strongly that Aram Talalian together with the National
conservatory of Armenia created the Armenian baroque music orchestra in
1997. "We occupied ourselves with the education of the distinctive style of
performance of baroque music," he says.

The result was the success of the first baroque music festival and its
return now for a second session.

"Due to a decade of commitment both the number of baroque music performers
and their audience have considerably increased," says Talalian. This
increase in baroque music admirers gave way to the urge to have a festival
solely for baroque lovers.

* Five concerts for baroque aficionados

The program of the 2nd Yerevan Baroque Music Festival extends over a
fortnight, from June 14 to 27. The total five concerts take place in a
single venue, the Komitas Chamber Music Hall.

While the program of the first festival was a first step of introducing
baroque music to the wider audience, this second time around the festival
targets specialization within its genre.

The festival employs various performance apparatuses from solo organ and
cello concert to solo vocalists and choir singers to baroque orchestra.

This year’s series of concerts explores baroque music from Johann
Sebastian Bach, Dietrich Buxtehude, and Henry Purcell to new names such as
Sharafyan and Polev. Baroque music is considered to express order, the
fundamental order of the universe, with an itch to explore form, and is
lively and tuneful at the same time. This melodious yet well-organized style
of music originated around 1600, and came to its full ripening between 1700
and 1750.

The opening concert was a solo cello performance by the cellist Aram

One of the guests of the festival, acclaimed early music artist
Christopher Stembridge performed solo on organ on June 16 and directed the
Naregatsi baroque orchestra on June 21. The June 18 concert featured the
performers of Naregatsi Chamber Players. The festival will be concluded on
June 27 by Duo Violoncelissimo, a pair of cellists from Ukraine: Vadim
Larchikov and Olga Veselina. Their first-ever performance in Armenia will
present to the audience the works of baroque composers as well as those of
contemporary composers from Ukraine and Armenia writing baroque music.

* Toward internationality

One of the distinctive features of the second festival is an apparent
tendency to include international names in the program, by bringing
acclaimed early music artists to Armenia.

The 2nd Yerevan Baroque Music Festival hosts a highly praised musician,
Christopher Stembridge, an Englishman living and working in Italy, who will
also direct master classes. "He is one of the best-known names of today in
the world of baroque and organ music," says Aram Talalian.

"I am extremely happy to be here and look forward very much to working
with musicians in Yerevan," said Stembridge.

There is an obvious tendency to include important and acclaimed performers
within the festival program, and an aim in building an international
reputation. "We do have a desire for making the festival a truly
international one," says Talalian, adding that naturally a baroque music
festival could not survive long with performers solely from Armenia. "We
should not forget that the main traditions of performing baroque music come
from Europe."

Making baroque music accessible to a new audience and especially to the
youth is a major problem and this festival hopes to offer solutions.

"The youth of today is being brought up with all kinds of possibilities,
and although there are problems relating to a difference between cultures
and periods, but I think that today it is more possible than ever before for
us to appreciate what other cultures and periods have to offer. I must say
was very pleased yesterday when I first saw your chamber concert hall for
the very first time and this organ sits in this space architecturally very
beautifully, although the acoustic may be a very different problem," said

With well-justified prospects to become a major music festival in Armenia
and the region, the Yerevan Baroque Music Festival has first to become an
annual event. It is the Armenian expression of the resurgence of interest in
the baroque and the setting for wonderful experiences both for professionals
and the general public.

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