The Suni Project: Music Preservation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939)

1723 Wells | Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3601 USA | (734) 996-1949 | info@suniproject.org

Dancing Vanetsi’s Video and Explanation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) collected Armenian folk songs and legends of many regions including the Van region which inspired his orchestral suite “Sketches of Van” and his choral/orchestral work “Zinch oo Zinch”. These works can be heard on the Suni Project CD “Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Archival Concert recordings (1935?, 1940, 1971)”.

Dancing Vanetsi’s [a 2-minute video]

Armenian dancers from the city of Van, Armenia filmed in 1946 in New York by Antranig Shahinian. Among the 8 dancers are Andy’s dad Vagharshag and, the eldest, Levon Kazanjian.

If you know any of these people or can identify #7 and #8, as explained below, we’d be grateful if you contact us!

Dancing Vanetsis

Viewing tip: You may need to download the free Quicktime player to view the video.

Explanation of the above Dancing Vanetsis video

Written by Armena Marderosian, The Suni Project: Music Preservation, 1723 Wells St., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104-3601 T: 734-996-1949

Written on October 30, 2003

“Dancing Vanetsi’s”

2-minute 1946 documentary film by Antranig (Andy) Shahinian (age 28) of exuberant folk dancing of immigrant Armenian men from the Armenian city of Van, at the annual meeting of their organization of Armenians form Van, made on a nice spring day, in his backyard at 2017 Muliner Ave, Bronx, New York, with a 16 mm box-type movie camera (bought for $15).

The dancers are:

  1. Levon Kazanjian (curly hair, unbuttoned suit jacket, thin, short, the eldest-age 75) dancing with friends from Van, generally has the lead as they gave a lot of respect to him, for his age,
  2. Vagharshag Shahinian (Andy’s dad, wearing suspenders and on the observers’ right of Levon Kazanjian in the first dance),
  3. Aram Arsenian (full of fun, first seen lying down, white shirt, spotted tie, white shoes, great dancer, Andy’s maternal cousin, whose (great?) grandfather in the Armenian city of Van, built in 1790 Soorp Boghos Bedros Church-St. Peter & Paul- which was destroyed in 1915 as part of the Ottoman Turkish Genocide of its Armenian subjects, along with the entire city of Van),
  4. Hrahad Haroutunian (dark unbuttoned vest and tie on white shirt, no jacket, very smily),
  5. Levon Khatchaturian (dark neat buttoned suit, bald. Great dancer. Son is called Levon Dickran),
  6. Haig Tokmakian (dark vest, tie, short, white hair, glasses, seen at end right. Andy’s cousin, lived to be 107)
  7. Man from Boston striped tie, light colored jacket, balding Who is he?
  8. Man in dark suit with tie or shirt showing at his waist danced near beginning, not at end. Who?

The dance scene starts with Aram on the ground. (The earlier shots are from another event)

Andy (or his mother Shoushanig -Arsenian- Tuhafjian Shahinian) was singing folk songs of Van (“Vanetsi” songs) to which the men were dancing. The first dance is a Shoorj Bar (round dance)”. The second dance (slow) is “Dal Dalla” in 5/8 time. The last (fast) dance is “Papori” .

We made a tape in 2002 of Andy singing and explaining these songs, to be put on this website later.

This video was received by a grandchild (one of four granddaughters and two grandsons) of Levon Kazanjian (1870, Van-1950 Boston): Armena Marderosian, in May 2002 from Antranig (Andy) Shahinian. Andy’s family was also from Van, Armenia and they were friends with Van immigrants Levon and Prapion Shakarian Kazanjian (1880-1950).

Levon Kazanjian was born in Van, Armenia in 1868, and died in Boston in 1951. His wife, Prapion Shakarian, was born in Van in 1876, and died in Boston in 1950. Levon first came to Boston in 1891, before the 1894-96 massacres of Armenians ordered by the Ottoman Turkish ruler Abdul Hamid II. Levon went back and forth to Van, finally moved to Boston with his family, ca. 1905. Levon Kazanjian had medical training and was employed as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was called “Doctor Kazanjian” by the Armenians for his medical knowledge and for helping the community. He was also a writer. Levon Kazanjian wrote in Armenian a book about the cultural life of the city of Van, Armenia, “Renaissance: Van-Vaspooragan (1850-1950) Cultural Golden Age”, published in Boston in 1950, called “Veratsnoond: Van Vaspooragan (1850-1950) Mshakootayeen Voskedar”. It includes cultural history of the Van region of Historic Armenia (eastern Anatolia and the Caucasus mostly,(areas now in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, and Iran) short essays about various notable cultural figures and their patriotic activities. In 2003, Arra Avakian has translated this book into English. We plan to add it to this website.

Levon Kazanjian also made an Armenian translation of “Microbe Hunters”, a very popular 1926 science book about microbiology and medicine (germ theory) written by scientist Paul de Kruif (Harcourt and Brace). We wonder who might have a copy of Levon’s translation of this book which we don’t have. Levon Kazanjian, living in Boston, wrote regularly for Armenian newspapers, including for Lraper (of the Harachdemagan Armenian political party, pro-Soviet Armenia), and probably for Baikar newspaper (also pro-Armenia). (Another Levon Kazanjian, unrelated, younger, also wrote for these periodicals from Philadelphia. He was the husband of Siran Suni Kazanjian, who was Grikor Mirzaian Suni’s eldest daughter.) Our Boston Levon Kazanjian also wrote for Varak, a Vanetsi periodical named after the monastery Varakavank on the island of Akhtamar in Lake Van. The famous Armenian priest/leader Khrimian Hairig had his headquarters at that monastery in the late 1800’s when Armenians were starting to resist the Ottoman oppression.

Levon and Prapion had five children: Van, Vanouhi, Vartan, Vahe, and Vartouhi, all “V” names, named after their ancestral city of Van. They had six grandchildren: two girls and a boy each from Vanouhi and from Vartan.

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939) collected Armenian folk songs and legends of many regions including the Van region which inspired his orchestral suite “Sketches of Van” and his choral/orchestral work “Zinch oo Zinch”. These works can be heard on the Suni Project CD “Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939): Archival Concert recordings (1935?, 1940, 1971)”.