Representation of Women in Armenian Dances

The residency program of Sona Pogossian aimed to set up research and obtain new knowledge on the history of Armenian dances, focusing on the issue of representation of women in Armenian dances and in the country in general. The residency program of Pogossian also involved teaching dance classes, which pursued the following goals:

  • to introduce to the basics of contemporary dance;
  • to think about gender representations;
  • to develop auto-representation among students with the help of words and gestures.

The conceptual vector of the performance developed by Pogоssian is directed at Armenian traditional feminine dances, which are mostly some kinds of ‘odes’ to women’s beauty, mildness, motherhood, etc. They praise and glorify the beauty and the courage of those who give birth to life. As Sona herself describes, ‘What if these dances don’t correspond any more to the (internal) world of Armenian women? Should Armenian women be only graceful? This play suggests a new relationship between the identity of the past and that of the future and the transformation of women along this path. Sometimes, they could be ex out of expel, exclusion, sometimes outsiders, sometimes former, but still living; her body is always in an ‘ex-ode’. Finally, in the passage from the original culture to the culture of the destination, in this path everything is a matter of distance, of space, particularly the space as [in]difference and not as separation. How is this act not a protest and not an opposition, but a desire to sculpt a new space of possibilities? Based on traditional Armenian dances, Ex-ode is a new voice of dance but also a reflection on the place of women in the Armenian context and in the Armenian dance.’

Sona Pogossian (b. Armenia) studied ballet and contemporary dance in Europe (Conservatory of Lyon and Young Ballet of Geneva). In 2010, she discovered character dance and she went to study in Russia (Moscow State University of Art and Culture). Since then, her work has been focusing on different ethnic representations. She has been traveling around the world to discover different dance cultures (Cuba, Brazil, Ireland, Argentina, Austria, Bulgaria). In 2015, she decided to return to France to finish her studies in dance research, specializing in anthropology of dance at the University 8 of Paris. The most important part of her work is the translation of traditional dances. One of the fields of Pogossian’s work materialized in 2016-2017 by writing a research ‘Representations of character dances in France’, ‘Representations of Gender in the Lezginka – Imaginations of the Caucasus’ and a performance about women’s* exile. She has also written on Latino dance events in Yerevan.

*When we say ‘woman’ we mean not only the one whose sex is biologically determined as female, but any of women’s identities (lesbian, transgender, man who considers to be woman, and so on) as well.