The Arax Armenian Dance Ensemble of Greater Washington is an organization aimed at preserving Armenian traditional folk dances. Our mission is to bring together individuals who are interested in learning traditional Armenian dances as well as cultivating these dances within both the Armenian and non-Armenian communities within the Greater Washington, DC Metropolitan area.
The Arax Armenian Dance Ensemble of Greater Washington presents traditional Armenian folk dances for diverse audiences. Our dancers perform unique line and circle dances, graceful women’s improvisations featuring delicate arm and hand movements, and forceful and energetic male dances.
Traditionally, music and dance accompanied everything from family celebrations to fieldwork. Like much Eastern music, Armenian music is modal, based on un-tempered scales instead of octaves. Armenian dance music also features unusual rhythms such as 5/4 and 9/8.
Under the supervision of its artistic director, Ms. Carolyn Rapkievian who has more than 20 years of professional experience in teaching and performing Armenian dances, as well as International folk dancing, ballroom dancing and ballet, the dance ensemble has had many successes in the past year.
The Arax Armenian Dance Ensemble is
named after the Arax River in Armenia and we perform Armenian
folk dances - some in their traditional form and some
choreographed for the stage from traditional dances.
Abarani Bar, choreographed by Carolyn Rapkievian
is about cutting the wheat and gathering the wheat for the
harvest. The Shoghaken Ensemble of Yerevan Armenia is playing
traditional Armenian instruments in the musical recording we
use. The 5/4 rhythm of this dance is like our heartbeat.
Daronee is a suite of two women’s dances from the
Daron region of ancient Western Armenia. This province was
devastated during the genocide but in the 1960’s, Azat
Gharibian, director of the Armenian State Song and Dance
Ensemble, pieced together this dance from fragments. The first
song is about loss of one’s beloved and one’s homeland. The
second tune is more lively, celebrating survival.
Kotchari, was choreographed by David Rapkievian
from traditional kotchari steps. Kotchari dances are usually
danced by men and are said to represent the movements of
goats, jumping, butting, and leaping. Kotchari dances from
Eastern Armenia are related to the dance called the Haleh from
ancient Western Armenia.
"Moom" means Candle in the Armenian language. Candles are utilized in our religious traditions as well as in our folk traditions. Danced to the song, "I'd die for the wind of the Mountains", the singer laments the loss of her love wishing for a whiff of his breath in the mountain air. The dance, choreographed by Carolyn Rapkievian, is symbolically about the loss of our sacred homeland and the ending pose represents the outline of Mount Ararat where Noah, the grandfather of the Armenian people, landed his ark after the great flood.
In May of 2005, a quarter of a million people danced in an unbroken circle around Mount Arakadz, the highest mountain in Armenia, in a Round Dance of Unity. The dance we perform was choreographed by Gagik Karapetian for that special event.
Ezerum Bar, is a graceful women's dance from Ezerum in
ancient Western Armenia. Gagik Karapetian, Director of the
state dance ensemble in Yerevan Armenia who taught this dance
to the director of the Arax ensemble, considers this dance to
be a jewel because it is perhaps thousands of years old.
The Tamzara was danced throughout Eastern and Western
Armenia. Each village had its own variation of this dance in
9/8 rhythm. Our Tamzara was choreographed by Carolyn
Rapkievian based on village Tamzaras. The Tamzara is still
popular today in Armenian diaspora communities throughout the
Sari Siroon Yar was choreographed by Carolyn Rapkievian to
the music of the Armenian contemporary a cappella group,
Zulal. In the song, a young woman is looking for her beloved
but alas, can not find him.
Loorke is a contemporary rendition of the dance
originally from the region of Van. Choreographed by Carolyn
Rapkievian, it is based on dance steps learned from Gagik
Ilig Bar is staged as a solo woman’s dance. The
movements represent winding the yarn, spinning the thread with
a drop spindle, and spinning the thread with a spinning wheel
- which were used to make our cloth and our beautiful
Oormetzeener was choreographed by Gagik Karapetian from
traditional dance steps from the region of Oormetz, a historic
settlement of Armenians near Lake Oormia.
Armenians and Laz people from the shores of the Black Sea
share a tradition of fishing and of course, dancing. Laz
Bar, was choreographed by David Rapkievian from
traditional Laz steps.
The dance Martinoo Kochari, is from Vaspurakan in
ancient Western Armenia. This dance is also found on the
southern shore of Lake Sevan in Armenia. In this dance you can
almost imagine goats leaping in a field. This unusual lyrical
Kochari, has mixed rhythms with measures of 6/8, 7/8, 8/8, and
Beautiful Lake Sevan in Armenia is the largest alpine lake
in the world. Sevanee, choregraphed by Gagik
Karapetian, celebrates the serenity of Lake Sevan. Movements
in the dance represent frolicking in its gentle waters.
Jojun, is a lively dance from Speetak, in the
northern part of Eastern Armenia. It features fast footwork
characteristic of stage dances from this region of Armenia.
Dickranagert Barer is a suite of four dances from
Dickranagert, a province in ancient Western Armenia. This
dance suite was choreographed by Gagik Karapetian from
traditional dances from Dickranagert.
In Dzaner Bar, the dancers are at a picnic celebrating the harvest of the grapes. This folkdance in 9/8 rhythm is from the province of Harput in historic Armenia. The dance was staged by Carolyn Rapkievian whose grandfather was from Harput.
Ov Highyots Ashkar, choreographed by Gagik Karapetian, is a contemporary collection of traditional Armenian folkdances - representing our exuberant struggle to remember our traditions while embracing the modern world.
Kessabsi Barer is a suite of
two dances from Kessab, a town on the northeast corner of the Mediterranean Sea.
Beejo was choreographed by Carolyn Rapkievian inspired by the original folk dance from Sepastia, a province in ancient western Armenia. The folk dance, carried to this country by survivors, was preserved by Arsen Anoushian of the Armenian Folkdance Society of New York in the 1970's.