FLASHBACK Dance tourS armenia – MAY 2009

As is my custom, a little flashback on the two 2009 tours. This year was special because Japanese folk dancers attended the second tour and visited Armenia for the first time.

The first tour was the usual mixed crowd of Europeans from different countries and one woman from Canada. In these times of economical crisis I was very happy to have nineteen participants, among them one non-folk dancer. Twelve Japanese women took the bold step to visit Armenia and already on the first day they stated it exceeded their expectations by far. I found out they expected a somewhat dirty, primitive third world country!

There is something in Armenia’s air or water that makes groups bond in close unity on almost every tour. I would like to think that the atmosphere my co-organiser Satik and I try to create contributes to that as well. It’s not a problem for single travellers to blend in and nobody is left out. Dance is a universal language! And, to make things even better, on both tours the weather was beautiful.

Spring in Ararat Vallley
Spring in Ararat Valley
Dinner time
Dinner time
Paylak teaching
Paylak teaching
Selim pass
Selim pass

If I think back to some special moments for the first group, one most definitely was the spontaneous party we had with a group of teenagers at Hotel Harsnaqar at Sewan Lake.
A girl was celebrating her fifteenth birthday and the group wasn’t shy about inviting us ‘oldies’ to dance and have fun with them. I can’t imagine this happening in our part of the world!

As always, our visit to Yegheknadzor, meeting the dance group there and tasting local food and homemade fruit vodka, was a pleasure.

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Welcome in Yegheknadzor with home made food and drinks
Welcome in Yegheknadzor with home made food and drinks
Teenage birthday in Sewan
Teenage birthday in Sewan
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For the first time we visited Jermuk, a resort with hot spas. It was the perfect occasion to relax or to enjoy a good massage after most of us partied with some other guests in the hotel lobby the night before. We danced together and admired Michael, the non-dancer, as he performed a fabulous Greek dance. The bottles of cognac that were offered to our group by the Armenian guests and the hotel manager certainly helped fire the atmosphere.

Hot springs in Jermuk
Hot springs in Jermuk
Alpine landscape near Jermuk
Alpine landscape near Jermuk

The ski lift to Tsachgadzor did not bring us to the beautiful spring meadows we expected to find because there had been late snow. So after a brief look around and a group picture, we quickly went back down.

Group picture in Tsachgadzor
Group picture in Tsachgadzor
First sign of spring in Tsachgadzor
Kecharis church in Tsachgadzor


Kecharis church in Tsachgadzor
First sign of spring in Tsachgadzor
Assisting with lavash baking
Assisting with lavash baking

The Japanese thoroughly enjoyed and absorbed every single activity. Our visit to Sasnashen was special because I hadn’t told the villagers the group would be Japanese and that they could dance Armenian dances.

It goes without saying that this was a big surprise.

We toasted, drank and ate with the villagers on what was a windy and rather chilly day and left with a warm glow in our hearts.

Baking bread appeared to be an international challenge. One woman tried it herself and found out that it looks easier than it is.

Group visiting Sasnashen
Group visiting Sasnashen

In Edsmiadzin, the head of the church, the Catholicos, made his appearance and one Japanese woman was extremely emotional on receiving his blessings.

After Sunday mass in Edsmiadzin
After Sunday mass in Edsmiadzin
Spear that pierced Christ's body
Spear that pierced Christ's body
Edsmiadzin
Edsmiadzin

On two occasions the group demonstrated some Japanese dances (some people had brought their kimonos!) and even managed to teach one dance to Armenians.

Dance teacher Liudvig and his musicians received many small gifts and a ‘happy coat’ to remember the Japanese group by.

Liudvig and musicians in Happy Coats
Liudvig and musicians in Happy Coats

On the last day the suitcases were filled with Armenian costumes and souvenirs. My friend Erica and her assistant had done a remarkable job to finish 12 Armenian costumes plus some single pieces before the group’s departure!

The memory of Armenia will come alive again whenever the woman wear their Armenian dresses at dance parties in Japan.

Needless to say, without the help of Nila Shimomura (Japanese co-organiser) and Sachiko Tanaka (interpreter) this 2nd tour would never have taken place.

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Armenian tradition of reading the coffee cup
Armenian tradition of reading the coffee cup
Geghard monastery
Geghard monastery
Armenian costume display
Armenian costume display
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Feed-back of participants - first 2009 tour (INTERNATIONAL PARTICIPANTS)

Gezellig, goede balans tussen dansen, vrije tijd en gezamenlijke activiteiten, mooi land, plezierige (nieuwsgierige) bevolking, hoge hakken, heerlijk eten, professionele leiding.

Ik kijk al uit naar de DVD en de reünie.

Harriët Bezemer (Nederland)

Our hotel in Yerevan
Our hotel in Yerevan
Erebouni museum
Erebouni museum
Flower stall in Yerevan
Flower stall in Yerevan

Ich schreibe Dir bald auch gerne ein paar Zeilen zu unserer Reise - wobei das wieder so ähnlich ausfallen wird wie nach meiner ersten Reise mit Dir. Ich fand es wieder ausgesprochen gut, toll organisiert, eine gute Mischung aus Tanzen, Land und Leute kennenlernen, Sightseeing und freier Zeit für eigene Erkundungen. Und die Gruppe war einfach toll - ich denke so oft und gerne an die einzelnen Leute!

Margarete Aulbach (Deutschland)

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Wine barrel in Zvartnots
Wine barrel in Zvartnots
Ornament in Zvartnots
Ornament in Zvartnots
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Nu je weer thuis bent wil ik je nogmaals bedanken voor een geweldige vakantie: ik heb er enorm van genoten! En alle mooie herinneringen hebben het keiharde bed helemaal verdrongen, ha ha!!

Vooral de afwisseling van dansen, cultuur, trips, gezelligheid, enz. in het programma vond ik een goede greep, en je had de boel in mijn ogen perfect georganiseerd. Op een hele relaxte manier (tenminste, zo komt het over...) toch de touwtjes in handen, geen zichtbare stress maar altijd een big smile....hoe doe je dat? Complimenten!

Ik stuur je een paar foto's mee, om nog even na te genieten.

Hopelijk zien of horen we elkaar binnenkort.

Nellie Rodermond (Nederland)

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Lake Sewan
Lake Sewan
Noraduz cemetery
Noraduz cemetery
Naïra  explaining
Naïra explaining

Tineke, die Reise mit Dir hat mir sehr gut gefallen. Du hast ‚mit leichter Hand’ immer eine gute Atmosphäre und schöne Stimmung erzeugt und dabei alles perfekt gemanaged, jedenfalls war das mein Eindruck.

Mein Mann ist ebenfalls infiziert, er hat alle meine Schilderungen so erlebt, als sei er selbst dabei gewesen. Du has also einen weiteren Fan. Organisiere also bitte weiter und auch für Nicht-Tänzer.

Monika Nosofsky (Deutschland)

Gndevank church complex
Gndevank church complex
Our apartments in Sewan
Our apartments in Sewan
Feed-back of participants - SECOND 2009 tour (JAPANESE PARTICIPANTS)

I am very happy that I was blessed with energy to learn Armenian dances on the trip from both Liudvig and you, and to dance with the young dancers. After we had warmed ourselves with Vodka and snacks, and the rain and thunder had stopped, the joy that was given from dancing with the young village dancers of Sasnashen was so great that for the first time I was singing joyfully with the group members and you the Japan Folk Dance Federation song, ‘Folk Dance’, from my heart…. and not as an obligation.

Thank you! Thank you!

Michiko Ishihara (Yamanashi, Japan)

Musicians in Yegheknadzor
Musicians in Yegheknadzor
Dancing in Yegheknadzor
Dancing in Yegheknadzor
SPACER

I am grateful that you decided to go on with the tour even with only 12 participants. Our lodgings in Yerevan being close to city centre and thorough orientation helped us discover the city, the people, the food, and their daily lives by ourselves. I felt myself a part of Yerevan when walking to and from dance school or dinner, or going shopping during free hours.

The well-planned schedule gave us enough time for rest and recreation. The dishes chosen for us and even the food served by the villagers with Lavash bread agreed to the Japanese palate. The daily herbs actually took care of the lack of vegetables.

Thanks to your co-organizer and great friend, Satik van Geenhuizen, who remembered our names and made sure that each of us was safe from reckless drivers, having a good time, enjoying meals, and well informed about Armenia. Thanks to Naira, her daughter and tour guide who gave us very clear and detailed information on the history, geography, culture, architecture, etc. of her country with the help of our wonderful interpreter, Professor Sachiko Tanaka. Both Satik and Naira are certainly examples of Armenians who are very proud of their country.

Liudvig’s dance classes were fun. He carefully taught us steps with smiles in his face and eyes. If only there were more of us and younger ones too, he would probably had more pleasure and beamed!

Early May was a time well-chosen for flowers were blooming everywhere. Each bouquet of field flowers that was given to us by the Sasnachen youth village dancers (the age of our grandchildren) was a very impressive welcome gift.

Your feelings that go through to the tips of your fingers as you do an Armenian woman’s dance, your ability to bring smiles to the tense faces of Armenian dance school youth when introducing international folk dances to them, and your ability to make impressive speeches before every ‘Genats!’ impressed me very much.

The small number of participants meant that not much time was wasted on gathering for any outing or toilet time. However, I feel more than happy to help spread the word about this wonderful tour so that you will have more participants next time.

The Armenian costume tailor-made for me is the greatest souvenir of this trip!

Wakako Horii (Ibaraki, Japan)

Selim Caravanserai
Selim Caravanserai
Group picture with shepherd
Group picture with shepherd
SPACER

The tour was really well planned, Tineke. We saw a lot and learned a lot about Armenia through you and your good friends. It was very considerate of you to plan ample time for rest and relaxation for us.

The faces and the complexion of the hard-working country people were colourful and beautiful. The face of the land in all three areas North, Northeast and East of Yerevan in Spring were just as interesting. I would love to see more of this rocky country where hard rocks and stones do not stop the people from building long-lasting constructions, carving beautiful works of art, or hand-drilling shrines in the mountains.

The tough stringed naturally dried fruits and the ones dried in sheets that were sold out in the villages are my 2 year old grandson’s favourite. (Mine too but I would rather sacrifice them all to see his happy face as he tears and munches at them deliciously) The dinners that you chose for us and the herbs were very good. The best thing was not having any stomach problems throughout the trip.

And is it a coincidence that many Armenian words sound so similar to Japanese words of the same meaning that we were able to understand many dance commands without being explained?

It was a pleasure and a great experience helping you realize this trip. Genats!

Nila Shimomura (Japan)

SPACER
Canyon near Saghmosavank
Canyon near Saghmosavank
Tasty local specialities
Tasty local specialities
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