News > Kuwaiti Armenians > Anna Manougian: My aim is to give the students the taste of dancing art
Shakeh Dance Group of the Armenian Relief Society staged a very impressive performance in Kuwait on 08 May 2009. See our report.
Azad-Hye had the following interview with dance teacher Anna Manougian:
Could you please give us information about your background?
I was born in Yerevan and had my high school education in French inclination school there. I am a graduate of choreography school too, which I used to follow in the afternoons, without affecting my ordinary curriculum.
After the graduation, I wished to continue in choreography, but due to some injuries that I had, I was not allowed to do so. I am a graduate of polytechnic school and engineer by profession. I was married to Dr. Manoog Manoogian, who is currently the Principal of the Kuwait Armenian School. He is originally from Aleppo. We lived together in Aleppo for 12 years before coming to Kuwait.
How did you eventually get involved in teaching or instructing dance groups?
My first work in Diaspora has been in 1997, when I was asked to stage the Karen Jeppe Armenian High School’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Aleppo, Syria. Artoon Kalemkerian (now deceased) had undertaken the musical part and I was in charge of the dances. We cooperated and the result was very impressive and had a good echo in the community and in the eyes of many people who attended this commemorative event from many countries in the world, namely the ex-graduates of the school.
It was something new for Aleppo: the mixture of live dance and song. As far as I remember this was without precedent.
After that I started ballet lessons in Aleppo. I had about 6-7 groups. I cooperated with a young person called George Durnayan who had a Kong-Fu athletic hall (ABBA). I used the facilities available there.
I also used the facilities of Gertasiradz School. I have prepared theatrical pieces, such as “The Sleeping Princess” which involved 150 students in several groups. I taught the groups separately and then mixed them together 5 days before the performance. My last group of Gertasiradz School was really an excellent one.
What about your experience in Kuwait?
I came to Kuwait in 2004 as a teacher of Armenian language. There was no dancing group in the school. Teacher Yeghia has taught some dancing lessons with the participation of 6-7 students. Before starting the dance lessons I was invited to a French school based in Kuwait, where I did ballet lessons for 2 years. Soon afterwards, the Armenian Relief Society decided to create an Armenian dance troupe with the encouragement of Archbishop Goriun Babian, the Catholicosal Vicar of Kuwait and Gulf Countries and I was invited to be the teacher.
It has been almost three years since the formation of the group now. We had a second public exposure in May 2009 with great success.
Do you find any difference between the first and second show?
Compared to last year’s performance the situation is very much improved now. We started with 34 students representing the school grades 8-10. This year we had the same students with few absences, but now they are at the level of 10-12 grades.
Although some of them had academic obligations as student of 12th grade, but still they found time for the training and for the final performance. The problem is that these students have to continue their studies in other countries outside Kuwait, since there are no opportunities for them to do University level studies in Kuwait. As a result, we will lose dancers and will need to compensate with dancers from lower grades. There is no solution for that except of creating a group of lower grade students (5-7 grade) who will replace the leaving students.
Do you think sometimes to create a dancing group with community members, not just students?
In the beginning, one of my ideas was to create the dancing group from young people who are already living and residing in Kuwait and not school children, who sooner or later will be obliged to leave the group to pursue their graduate studies, with limited chance for them to return back.
I wanted to involve people who are living here in more stable situations. This suggestion did not materialize for different reasons.
What kind of problems you face in the team work related to the dance group?
Currently there are very big variances in the capabilities of the dancers. Some students have limited capabilities, others have medium and excellent capabilities and all these are in one group. The final outcome, of course, suffers from this. I try to select dances that do not highlight the differences between the dancers, but eventually the stage cannot hide the reality. We try of course to maximize their capabilities.
What about the content of the dances? Are they mostly Armenian?
Last year all the dances were Armenian and had more cultural aspects, like songs, music, reciting, etc. This year we had a total 5 Armenian dances, while the rest were from international selection, including a complete set of Latin American and European dances. Last year I was insisting that the students learn completely Armenian dances, because I was arguing that they need first to understand their national dances and love them and form an idea about dancing, then we can move to other dance schools. Some sophisticated dances like Rumba were left out.
My aim is to give the students the taste of dancing art. First of all, they get accustomed to team work and discipline themselves. We do the training in the School hall. We try to schedule the training in a way not to have conflict with the activities and commitments that our dancers have with other groups.
We had a very successful performance this year with the attendance of many foreign guests, who were all very impressed.
This year (starting from September 2009), I will give emphasis to ethnic Armenian and international dances. I believe a momentum now has been created and we can work for better results. Of course, we have several challenges related to the selection of dances and the raising of the low grade students’ level. Unfortunately, our students are far from practicing athletic activities during school time. They lack physical flexibility. They lack therefore proper physical education. Another problem is the lack of musical education. The students do not have trained ear and this is another aspect that I need to develop, in order to turn the students fit for the dancing work. When we started the young students group (5th grade) we did a selection.
Some parents were disappointed when they did not see the students of the lower grades on stage, during the May 2009 performance?
I did not want these children to be on stage in our recent show, because they were not ready and I do not like the idea of putting them on stage just for demonstrating them to the public and their parents. Discipline is important in our work. At an early age, it will not be easy to tame the energy inside the children, especially that the best young dancers are those who are the most disobedient.
Read also: Shakeh dance group impresses Armenian and foreign audience
Dance group photos are supplied by the Armenian Prelacy of Kuwait and Arabian Gulf.