Photos by Lusi Sargsyan
“I am what I am. Don’t try to turn me upside down! Don’t try to imagine me the way you want to imagine me because this will neither help my roots give fruit nor turn my verdure into roots. I am what I am. Help me give a more perfect fruit with your fertilizer instead of trying to turn me into someone you want to see!”
My interlocutor is specialist of national dances, ethnographer and artistic director of Karin Folk Song and Dance Ensemble Gagik Ginosyan. We covered the events and incidents that took place in his prime and served as a basis for the creation of the image of Gagik Ginosyan.
When we were choosing a place for the interview, Gagik Ginosyan was deep in thoughts and was listing some symbolic sites in Yerevan, including the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran), the National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet and the areas near the “Mother Armenia” memorial complex where he feels the air of the nation…Gagik Ginosyan associates Yerevan with Alexander Tamanyan and considers his art unrivaled. Ginosyan fought under the direct command of Tamanyan’s grandson, Alexander Tamanyan Junior during the Artsakh war and says those were the most sentimental days of his life. It was in that period that he had feelings that caused a storm in his soul more than dance could do.
“Sometimes people ask me if I haven’t gotten tired of dancing, and I tell them that I haven’t had enough of dancing to get tired…I still have a stir of emotions inside. Even now, besides one episode during the war, no incident has shaken me and given me so much energy as dance has, and it instills more and more power.”
Born and raised in Akhaltskha, Gagik Ginosyan was viewed differently since childhood. People would say he goes from one extreme to the next, is calm and in his element at the same time, is active, mischievous and slow at the same time. However, one thing was clear-that “extraordinary” teen was not ordinary right from the start.
“When we were in the city, nobody could ever imagine that I could climb cliffs, jump from one cliff to the net and receive fractures outside of the city. While others would manage to examine something, I would manage to jump into the adjacent river, swim or reach the crest of a tree. I go from one extreme to the next. I am either very calm, or in my element. I have never loved the ordinary. I haven’t fit in or conformed to society. Perhaps it corresponds to the sign of my horoscope. As they say, “a lion is either sleeping or hunting”.
When national values were being eliminated during the Soviet era, Ginosyan’s family in Akhaltskha was doing its best to preserve them. One could see the pictures of Warrior Andranik and Vardan Mamikonyan on the walls, and the members of the family would read excerpts from Nzhdeh’s ideology every day.
“My father was a very patriotic man. My siblings and I were the only ones in Akhaltskha who would call their father “daddy”. Those obsessed with everything foreign would mock us a lot. On different occasions, we would get into fights to keep our honor. I was in the third or fourth grade when my father brought home a disc recorded on an X-ray film and told us to close the doors and not talk about what we would be listening to. For the first time, I listened to the Armenian song “Gndak vorotats noyember amsin, pasharvats em yes eem siroon Sose…” (my father always provided us with an Armenian upbringing).
That upbringing couldn’t go unnoticed. Standing out with his knowledge of physics and mathematics and having graduated from the Polytechnic Institute, Gagik Ginosyan was involved in the field of science for a while at the Institute of Physics for a while, but would eventually devote himself to the nation and convey new air to Armenian national dances.
“I could have studied better and become a more serious specialist, but that is what being young is about. I couldn’t be like the boys who would leave everything aside and study day and night. I couldn’t limit myself to one thing. It cuts you off from life and very often makes you faceless and sometimes even useless for mankind. Then, I wrote some verses that the trunk of my tree is not like the trunk of a poplar, but is spread out like the trunk of an apricot tree with different trunks and different implants.”
Gagik Ginosyan started performing ethnographic dances by coincidence. One of his friends was in love with a girl who was a member of the Van Armenian Ethnographic Dance Group. Ginosyan and his friend went to get accepted to the group so that they could be closer to the girl.
“I was certain that we wouldn’t get accepted. However, Hyerik Muradyan’s generosity made us think otherwise. I didn’t even understand how I got up on stage and had the opportunity to dance on the stage of the Polytechnic Institute for the first time just months later. This was my first performance ever. “
A turning point in Gagik Ginosyan’s life was his meeting with Hyerik Muradyan, who managed to convince a shy person like Ginosyan who wouldn’t buy ice cream from the store because the clerk was a woman, to dance on stage.
“Hyerik Muradyan changed my life. His lessons on the importance of describing Armenian culture and the type of the nation fundamentally changed my image.”
However, he would have never imagined that one day people in Armenia would remember him when referring to ethnographic dances, but this makes him sad.
“With a grand school of Soviet Armenian dance and hundreds of famous graduates, a physicist comes and decides how ethnographic dances should be performed and dictates taste. I think this is really a tragedy. It means that if an outsider can come and revolutionize Armenian dance in a couple of years and say it was phony, it means that we have been taking the wrong path throughout the Soviet era. For 70 years, they made our culture die so much that it was preserved in only a couple of places where there were devoted people. They had created “a culture of the select” that they also viewed with irony, asking how a nation could perform its dances. National dances belong to the nation, and whoever is arrogant and believes he is the select, he should simply remember what Komitas said: “If you want to see the perfect and the genius, go and learn from the people!”
Gagik Ginosyan also writes poems and is author of over 300 winged words. After the Arstakh war, he also received a military education.
“There are many things that I would have liked to put in more effort. I often feel great pain when I realize that I didn’t use my knowledge of the military. I am certain that I could have done more as a dancer and a cultural figure and gain more knowledge. I feel pity that I also wasn’t able to do something for Armenian science.”
The Artsakh war changed a lot of things in his spiritual world. It made him feel proud, be aware of national dignity and have the will to determine his destiny and be certain that it is possible.
“Patriotism based on sentimentality turned into patriotism based on ideology. When the whole world thought it was impossible to win Azerbaijan, we Armenians managed to show the world that, as Nzhdeh would say, “the fight is not about quantity, and whoever stays mute on the battlefield, prepares for defeat.”
“A person who is involved in the arts and science must never be happy in terms of profession because happiness is the death of a genius. I have two daughters, and I would have liked to have a son. I have always been self-sufficient and haven’t had great ambitions, and I am certain that happiness lies within us and not on the outside. If you understand the real values, phenomena in life can’t stand in your way to be happy.”
“Love is everything. If there is no love, there is nothing. I am a person who doesn’t work, but earns because what I am doing never turned into a job for me. It is very important to love what you do. A task that is not done with pleasure can’t give fruit.”
Advice to young people…
“Man is the way he is and must aspire to be a better person, not imitate others and try to achieve success like them by taking into account their successes. Each person has his own formula for success.”