Director has heart for bringing her culture into mainstream

“When we’re inspired, we feel like we can move mountains.”

There’s a smile on Follow Your Heart artistic director Armineh Keshishian’s lips, as she explains what makes her show culturally relevant. She’s beaming when she talks about its inspiration, and finding the common bonds that unites human beings, no matter what religion or creed.

The creator of Evolution Dance Theatre sits in the corner of Bavia, a dance studio at St. Clair Avenue West and Oakwood Avenue.

The 45 dancers, musicians and actors are on lunch break, but afterward they’ll be hard at work preparing for the May show that would run at the Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre.

Until then, they fill the large dance studio with ambient murmuring and spontaneous laughter.

They come from around the world to work with Keshishian, who wrote and produced Follow Your Heart. It’s her fifth such production, each one building on the one that came before.

“I believe we should really follow our hearts at all times,” she said. “They always say, if you don’t know what decision to make, just see what your heart says.

“That’s the right decision. That’s what I believe. Without … adversely affecting others, follow your heart.”

The story follows Almaza (played by Teria Morada), a modern Middle Eastern woman, who falls in love with a traditional man, Jivan (Mateo Torres).

“It’s a story that everyone can relate to because we are all one human race and we feel all the same emotions,” Keshishian shares. “Our values may be a little different, but we want to focus on commonalities rather than the differences.

“So, what we’re trying to aim for here is to bring Middle Eastern culture to the mainstream — including diversity, including women’s empowerment — and to show the unity of the human race.”

Following one’s heart is in Keshishian’s blood.

Keshishian, who lives in the Yonge and Davisville area, is a financial planner, and in the past did belly dancing.

“I did professionally dance, and I got it out of my system in a way,” she admits. “During the process I became very creative and started writing the stories.

“The writing is not just the story — I’m not writing a novel — I like to write where you have music and dancing, where you can use all of your senses.”

All of the senses were stimulated, Keshishian assured, with the costuming, music and dance.

“There’s a dance called the ‘Black Butterfly’, which represents change, but it shows the character’s fears,” she shares. “It doesn’t matter how much joy we have, we still have fear, anger. All of that is coming.

“It’s really to express ourselves, and it’s with this we want it to have a ripple effect in a sense that if there’s something you wanted to do, consider doing it now. Life is short.”

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Posted: Jul 10 2014 6:00 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto