I was born in Armenia, into a family of folk dancers. Naturally, my parents hoped I would dance. In an attempt to convince me, they brought me to the ballet school, but I wasn’t interested. I much preferred martial arts and sports, not dance.
When I was 12, they decided to try and get me to follow their path one more time. I started folk dancing, but after a year and half I remember watching the ballet class. I was mesmerized by the amazing jumps and turns. That night I went home and told my parents I wanted to be a ballet dancer. My parents were relieved when they discovered that at last I had become serious about ballet.
Because I started ballet five years behind everyone else in my class, I had to work hard to catch up with the other kids. I was so driven that I even took extra classes. I wanted to be the best. But I also challenged myself to do things differently than everyone else. I decided to participate in a dance competition in Armenia. In the contemporary category , I won the gold medal. This gave me a lot of motivation and belief that I could make my dream of becoming a dancer a reality. I started working even harder, trying to take myself to the next level.
However, my next competition in St. Petersburg was not nearly as successful. I made it to the second round, but not the finals. Even though I was devastated, this gave me the opportunity to watch and learn from my peers. As I watched, I noticed that small details made a difference, like the way they held themselves and how they behaved off stage. I realized that I could change the way I perceived myself.
I returned to Armenia from St. Petersburg, I started working even harder. Until that point, I had only experienced Russian training. I realized that I needed to broaden my skills and learn more about contemporary dance and choreographers. I decided to apply to three different schools, one of which was the School of Zurich Ballet, in Switzerland. I received a scholarship there and joined right away. This opportunity changed my life.
In Zurich, I found what I had been craving. Most of our repertoire was contemporary, which I really enjoyed. I was also able to participate in several different types of performances. For example, I learned flamenco from Nina Corti , which was an incredible experience! After some time had passed, I decided I needed a new challenge, so I started preparing for the Prix de Lausanne. This competition was an unforgettable opportunity. I ended up winning the professional dancer’s prize and I received several job offers. However, I decided to return to Zurich, where I ultimately spent an amazing seven years.
At the end of this time, the famili ar feeling returned that I needed a new challenge . I needed to explore and see what else was out there. So, I decided to look for a new company. I had heard about San Francisco Ballet, and I went to the U.S. for what would be my first company audition.
I felt that I should experience as much as possible. Within two days I got my visa, a plane ticket and I arrived in San Francisco and auditioned the same day. I was so amazingly excited. I couldn’t think about anything else . I was offered a contract. I went to the company manager to sort out the details. I learned I had been given a principal contract. Now I’ve been in the company 10 years, and looking back, I must confess it was the happiest day of my life. What a fun and exciting journey. I truly can’t complain.
I’ve had the opportunity to dance and work with many choreographers. But there are still many things I would love to be able to dance . It’s always a matter of moving forward, and not becoming too comfortable in one place.
In the future, I have quite a few things and ideas I want to try. I see myself growing into a choreographer and I’d like to try teaching and coaching. Recently, I did a special project to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide. It was a video called 1915 Meran vor Aprink . We had to raise a lot of the funding needed and we were able to work with a professional crew, which was very enjoyable. There are many more dreams out there that I want to make a reality.
Photo by Rachel Neville
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