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Yeghia Hasholian
Artistic Director and Choreographer

Yeghia Hasholian was born in 1951 in Beirut, Lebanon. From a young age, he was influenced by his parents to pursue the arts. In 1957, Tatoul Altounian State Song and Dance Ensemble of Armenia performed in Beirut. This first exposure to dance left a long lasting impression on the six-year old Yeghia. Henceforth, Yeghia's involvement in the world of arts has been dominated by dance. During his youth, he attended Aksor Kassardjian Armenian School and subsequently became involved with its dance program, never missing an opportunity to perform in recitals. At the age of sixteen, he joined the Hamazkayin Knar Dance Ensemble of Beirut, Lebanon and participated in many performances, including Cyprus in 1970. It was around this time that Yeghia wished to bring his dancing to a new aesthetic level, therefore he joined both the Lizette Damsis Dance Academy, which specialized in contemporary dance and the Sonya Poladian Ballet School, where he studied classical ballet. In 1971, Yeghia was invited by the owner of the renowned Ani Dabat School of Ballet to take classes. There, he studied under the tutelage of Ballet Master Raffik Gharzousi. Already recognized by choreographers as a promising talent, Yeghia was invited by well known director Gerard Avedissian to perform as a principal soloist in an Armenian musical, "Long Live the King". In the same year, he was invited to join the primary professional dance and theatre company in Beirut, Caracalla Dance Theatre. This new experience gave Yeghia the opportunity to display his talent in many venues, including his favorite, The Baalbeck International Festival. Other performance locations include Damascus, Armenia, various cities in the former Soviet Union and Tehran in 1974, where he was introduced to then Queen Farah Diba and other members of the royal family for whom the company had given a command performance. During his tenure at Caracalla, Yeghia was fortunate to have trained under Bert Stimmel, Ballet Master and Director of the Martha Graham School of Ballet in London.

In 1974, Yeghia immigrated to the United States, settled in Santa Monica, California and quickly immersed himself in the burgeoning Armenian community. Earlier in the year, Suzy Barseghian had formed the Sardarabad Dance Group under the Armenian Youth Association of California. Upon his arrival to America, Yeghia joined this group. Having known each other and danced together in Lebanon, Yeghia and Suzy became the artistic directors together. Later in 1976, the dance group joined Hamazkayin Los Angeles Chapter and was renamed Hamazkayin Ani Dance Group. Led by his fervor for the dance, Yeghia devoted his energy to the new group, indefatigably working to not only ensure its success, but also leading it to heightened levels of creativity and success.

In 1977, Yeghia married Jane Barseghian and moved to Redondo Beach, California. Later, they had two children, Taleen and Talar. Yeghia's wife, Jane not only encouraged her husband in his endeavors, but also performed in the company for twenty-five years. Jane also designed and created the group's costumes and continues to do this to this day.

In 1988, the State Dance Ensemble of Armenia toured Los Angeles. They gave many performances and Yeghia was able to not only attend every one of them, but also to meet and befriend legendary director Vanoush Khanamirian. By this time, the Ani Dance Group was staging most of his works. Yeghia and Khanamirian continue their friendship to this day. In 1994, Yeghia formed yet another meaningful friendship, this time with Norayr Merhabyan, current Ballet Master and Choreographer of the Barekamutyun State Dance Troupe of Armenia. With the endorsement of these two prominent figures, Yeghia and the Ani Dance Company have enjoyed unparallel success.

Since the company's inception, Yeghia, had dreamed of taking this company to Armenia. This was realized in 1999 when the company performed in the historical landmark, the National Opera House of Yerevan, the Vartan Ajemian National Academic Theatre of Gumri, and the National Theatre of Stepanakert, Artsakh. These performances were not only symbolic and meaningful for Yeghia and those involved, but they also received enthusiastic responses from captivated audiences. The dance company has since traveled to Armenia four times and has never left without an invitation to visit again. In September of 2001, the Dance Group became part of Hamazkayin Regional Executive Affiliate and the group was renamed Hamazkayin Ani Dance Company.

In addition to countless performances, both domestic and international, Yeghia and the Ani Dance Company have received many awards and honors including Highest Medal of the Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Society, Recognition Award of Western Prelacy of the Apostolic Armenian Church of America granted by Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, and Recognition Award from Cultural Minister of Yerevan Armenia and Stepanakert, Artsakh. Additionally, the Ani Dance Company has received official recognition from both the California State Senate and the United States Congress, as well as an honorable mention from California Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and United States Congressman, Adam Schiff.

Yeghia's favorite dances include those with a contemporary touch and require theatrical as well as dance technique. These include, "Dle Yaman", "Loretsi Sako" and "Artsakh", among many others. Beyond technique, what compels Yeghia to pieces such as these is their requirement for a display of passion. Though he no longer dances today, Yeghia proudly stages these numbers, and in doing so, emphasizes to the new generation of dancers the importance of performing with energy, zeal and a movement that goes beyond merely memorizing steps. Yeghia stresses to these young dancers that it is the movement in dance which tells the story in an art medium where dialogue is not available. For Yeghia, the secret for the art of dance to stay young, the aesthete must be aware of his roots, but also be open to new ways of showing his art. It is the constant search for balance between the old and new where one can find himself.

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