To celebrate its 10th anniversary, the dancers of Karavan Dance Studio are collaborating with the Los Angeles Ballet Theatre, Israel National Ballet, National Ballet of Armenia and Burbank’s Creations Dance Theatre in a show featuring nearly 100 dancers. Some are as young as 3 years old, under artistic director Edgar Nikolian, who also started dancing as a child.
Nikolian’s first dance teacher was his father, Rouben Nikolian, who founded the dance studio. The elder Nikolian fathered two sons, raised them in Yerevan, Armenia, and taught them dance despite initial resistance.
“Because my father is a dancer, my family said, ‘You have to dance,’” Nikolian, 25, recalled on a recent afternoon, as he rehearsed a ballet duet with 21-year-old Amara Baptist at the South Glendale studio. “First I thought, ‘I’m not going to dance. Ballet is for girls. It’s not for me.’”
At 8 years old, with a body sculpted from five years of gymnastics classes, Nikolian was left with no choice but to try. By age 16, he was granted a full scholarship to an elite ballet academy in Munich and went on to perform for the Bavarian State Ballet and Vienna State Ballet.
His family and his wife, Karine Nikolian, brought him back to Glendale, where he divides half of the day dancing and the other to teaching in the studio he now oversees. When asked what it takes to perform a dance brimming with both emotion and remarkable physicality, he replies with another question, “Hard work?”
Then he consults with Karine in words just above a whisper. “He wants me to translate, if you don’t mind,” she said. “Something along the lines of ‘Mind, body and soul have to be in sync. It’s a portrayal of your thoughts, your emotions, your physical ability.’”
The show, on Nov. 12 at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, is sure to pack an emotional punch. One of its dancers and choreographers is Raquel Cordova, of Burbank, who choreographed a piece titled “Faces of Regret,” inspired by the aftermath of her father’s death from cancer.
Her Burbank studio, Creations Dance Studio, was in part established by Cordova to cope with her father’s loss. She needed to express herself through movement. “Especially dancers, they can’t express with words,” she said.
A year prior to his passing, Cordova moved her family to Texas to care for him, yet when he died she still thought to herself, “’I could have done this better, I could have done that better,’” she remembers. “That’s what this piece means to me — trying to go back in time and then realizing you can’t.”
The first time her dancers rehearsed the piece at Creations Dance Theatre, they were in tears when the music finished. They knew Cordova’s inspiration for the piece but as she had requested, they each performed it with their own regrets in mind.
When they perform it before an audience, bracelets on each of the dancers arms signify those personal regrets.
“I don’t like to place movement on dancers,” Cordova said. “It became theirs.”
Karavan Dance Studio performs at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Alex Theatre, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Tickets range from $25 to $50. Call (818) 243-2539.