An American Dramaturg in Armenia

Reflections on a 5-month sojourn as a Fulbright Scholar to the Yerevan Institute for Cinematography and Theatre

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artistic director of Active Cultures, the Vernacular Theatre of Maryland

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

More and more sculpture

A sculpture in the Hrazdan Gorge

My kids call this sculpture "The Golf Player" (yes, it's all about you, Tiger Woods).

City as Sculpture Garden

One of the truly unique things about Yerevan is the quantity and variety of public art, particularly sculpture. No matter where you go, you will see not one or two pieces, but whole gardens of sculpture. And although to a certain extent, the Hay take all this art for granted, everyone has their favoritie piece, one they have cherished since they first laid eyes on it or, even, since childhood.

Coming as I do from a town where the main form of public art is sculptures of dead white men on horseback, I revel in the variety of art in Yerevan.

A photo collection of these works would make a great coffee table book. There is no way I can post images on this blog capturing even a fraction of the sculpture. Instead, I am just putting up a few favorites that I see as I walk around town.

The red sculptures are made of tufa--the soft rock that is the primary builidng material of the area. Tufa is light and easy to carve, which makes it ideal for sculpture, but it is also surprisingly durable, allowing artworks to last centuries.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Performance of Armenian National Dance Company

On Friday night I went to see the Armenian National Dance Company perform at the Opera Theatre. The Opera Theatre is a beautiful building, recently renovated. It is arguably the most famous building in Yerevan and has been lovingly restored to its 1930s glory.

The national dance troupe performs works using the dance idiom (movements, postures and gestures) of traditional Armenian folk dance. The performance I attended was freshly staged, with new choreography. The program was a mixture of heroic, romantic, patriotic and comedic pieces.

The company was quite largeā€”I counted 16 men and 16 women in the corps de ballet with one male soloist and two female soloists. The performance was clean and exciting, well paced and well executed. The lighting was lovely.

One thing I loved about the costumes was that the women's outfits freqently included wigs with hip-long braids. For certain numbers, the braids were fastened at the waist to the front of the costumes so the braids wouldn't fly about and ruin the line of the movements. I've never seen that before.

Although the dancing was superb, my favorite performers were the musicians. The performance started with a drummer calling the dancers onstage. He then moved upstage right were a small orchestra of musicians playing traditional and modern instruments provided the music for the dancers.

Since coming to Yerevan, I have seen several dance and vocal performances accompanied by studio-produced taped backing tracks which gives a Karaoke-like feel to the evening. I like to see my karoke in bars, not onstage. Thus, I greatly appreciated the live music.

There were a number of non-Armenians in the audience. The entire row in front of me was filled with Brits and a Japanese couple with a tourist map was to my left. I've notied that many of the tourist brochures steer foreigners to music and dance performances.