A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a performance by the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston in Worcester. Having spent a good portion of my high school years in Turkey learning and performing folk dances from all corners of Anatolia, and having watched several performances by Turkish folk dance groups on many occasions, I had decided that attending a performance by this reputable Armenian dance group was long overdue. And so, thanks to a few Armenian friends of mine, the arrangements were made and here we were driving from Watertown to Worcester with what I would call a marvelous mixture of mixed company. Let me set the scene for you: in the back of the car, I am sitting in between two starkly different generations. To my left sits 26-year-old Ümit Kurt. He is from Gaziantep, Turkey, currently a doctoral student at Clark University and already a published academic. He tells me his mother is Kurdish and assumes his father is Turkish…but then again we both agree that with a background so rich in multi-ethnicity during the Ottoman times one can never be sure of one’s roots in Anatolia…Anyway, Ümit, quite the bright young man, has taught himself the Armenian alphabet and is currently enrolled in Armenian language classes in Watertown, Massachusetts. And to my right sits Siranoush Kassabian, a 92-year-old born in Evereg (renamed Develi in present-day Turkey), raised in Lebanon and living in the United States since 1976. I must point out that Siranoush is sharper than many a twenty-something that I have known and she doesn’t miss a beat. Not only does she keep abreast of what is happening inside the car, keeping an eye on her daughter Hripsime and the GPS device she is following, but she switches from Turkish to Armenian to English with comfort and ease and puts me to shame since my Armenian is pathetically limited to “hello” and “how are you.”
As I mentioned our driver is Siranoush’s daughter Hripsime (they call her Hrip for short) Parsekian, a former nurse and bilingual language teacher from Watertown. Next to Hrip sits her cousin Ardemis Yepremian (Arda for short) who is visiting from Cranston,Rhode Island. It’s the first time I’ve ever met Arda so we don’t get to exchange too many words beyond the usual questions about where we live and where we come from and the like. After a slow walk up to the theatre with Ümit helping Siranoush up the steps, the show starts. They barely start the second dance number and I immediately feel like I’ve been here before…the steps, the pacing, the rhythm, they are all so familiar to me. I am seated next to Ümit on one side and Arda on the other. I glance over at Siranoush and as I suspected, she’s not missing a beat, no senior moment or snoozing halfway through a show in her case! Overall, the performance is delightful  not only because the overall rhythm of the dances are quite familiar to me, but I also find the tracing of the history and traditions of the Armenian nation and culture through different sections of the performance to be well designed, informative and entertaining. It’s not the first time I have heard of the famous troubadour Sayat Nova or the composer Gomidas Vartabed but it is especially resonant to see/hear these names associated with the art of dance.
That said, one of my favorite moments comes about halfway through one of the dance numbers when I feel that Arda, sitting next to me, is starting to move and bounce in her seat, at the very same time that I am! It becomes delightfully obvious to me right then and there; Arda and I are clearly dancing to the same tune. Towards the end of the performance, she leans towards me and asks: “Have you ever seen anything like this?” and I respond, “In fact yes, many of the performances by my Turkish folk dancing friends have been quite similar really.”
And so I ask myself: if Arda and I can well shimmy to the same tune, when will the rest of the Turkish and Armenian communities in Boston and beyond follow?
 Except for the artistic rendering of a horrific scene of murder and carnage of young Armenian women during the Genocide. As a Turkish speaking person, this was exceedingly disturbing to me since the “dance” (more like a visual representation of Ottoman-Turkish soldiers summararily massacring young Armenian women) was accompanied by a Turkish tune (Bir dalda iki kiraz, biri al, biri beyaz) clearly associated with joy and happiness! I guess we all have our “red line” when it comes to artistic license. Mine hits that line at dark and disturbing use of dance choreography.