Creating Community – Cultural Heritage, Loss, and Strength

  • Maya Garabedian (USA)

    Yerevan, Armenia
    December 14-27, 2016

Maya Garabedian is a second-generation American seeking to create community through the creation of contemporary dance. Starting at an early age, Maya found herself involved in dance on a global scale, working with organizations such as Balance Dance Company (Boise, Idaho), Bates Dance Festival (Lewiston, Maine), Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (London, England), and the University of California Santa Barbara. She is interested in floor work, sequential movement, contrasting flexibility with strength, dance on film, and the way the environment informs movement. Growing up in a family with strong cultural identity, her father’s immigration became a defining characteristic in her life and art. Her family’s struggle for survival during the Armenian Genocide resulted in a migratory journey through Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and eventually, the United States. Maya’s unique approach to art making is influenced by the Armenian Genocide and subsequent denial, the acquisition of Lebanese citizenship through naturalization, and the complexity of life in the United States during a time of anti-Middle Eastern sentiment. Maya would argue that there is a connection between people whose origins align demographically that cannot be experienced by others. Having specific struggles so central to your being subconsciously transfers into everything you create: your niche, your family, and your art. In 2015, Maya was commissioned to choreograph a piece that would unknowingly serve as an impetus for exploring the power of cultural roots. The genocide’s 100-year anniversary and the perspective it provided her during a year of personal hardship inspired a dance and contemplative thought that led to this journey. As time passed, a project was born from the idea that new movement could be accessed once on the soil of her ancestors.

With the resources of residency programs in both her father’s home country of Lebanon and her ancestor’s home country of Armenia, Maya created a dance that is a commentary on cultural heritage, loss, and strength. Through a series of filmed, site-specific, improvisational works within the two countries, Maya has generated a final project in the form a short film, displaying the power of dance in context. Locations were chosen due to significance, spanning from her father’s apartment in Gemmayzeh, to the Institut Francais in the Chouf Mountains, and into the public sphere of Yerevan. Having only been to Lebanon once before, and this being her first time to Armenia, she is grateful for the opportunities to teach workshops, the kindness of Maqamat Dance Theatre and the Art and Cultural Studies Laboratory, and the locals who have enabled her to experience art in Lebanon and post-Soviet Armenia.