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VOL. 129 | NO. 135 | Monday, July 14, 2014


Dance Teacher Spreads Love of Dance From Cordova

By Andy Meek

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Arman Sahakyan, born in Armenia’s capital city of Yerevan, started taking dance classes as a 6-year-old.

Fast forward almost three decades, and today the 33-year-old remains committed to dance as an art form – only now he’s also spreading that enthusiasm to others as the owner of Dancing With Arman, a dance studio in Cordova.

The period between those two bookends of his life include beginning a study of the piano around the same time as he began learning dance, then in 1998 relocating from Armenia with his family to the dance center of Moscow. It was a move that helped him further develop his art – and would eventually help bring him to Memphis.

Dance instructor Arman Sahakyan practices with student Melinda Benham in the ballroom of the Bert Ferguson Community Center in Cordova where Sahakyan operates Dancing with Arman. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

“I was taking lessons in Moscow and dancing in professional competitions,” said Sahakyan, who also began participating in national competitions while in Moscow and developed a lasting love for Latin-American dances.

What drew him to that style is in part its energetic rhythms. In 2007, he opened a dance center in Moscow called Menua, adding new texture to his budding professional career.

Menua became a multi-faceted creative outlet, where he taught students, choreographed and produced showcases, as well as choreographing wedding dances and beauty contest routines.

To say he’s a dancer doesn’t quite encompass everything. Sahakyan also is a teacher, choreographer, piano player and – as is evidenced by his ventures in Moscow and now in Memphis – a business owner.

He acknowledges that starting something like dance as young as he did is usually done at the prodding of a parent. And he admits to such prodding – that, in fact, he didn’t necessarily want to dance at first.

“But I realized – this is a very nice thing!” he said, eventually deciding that it’s useful for other things, like meeting new people and making friends.

As part of his professional development, he’s always working to learn more about ethnic dance trends, and that includes traveling frequently. Those excursions have included trips to Argentina, Brazil and the Dominican Republic in 2011. In addition, be became a pro-am dance instructor, pro-am being the type of dance in which the instructor acts as both a coach and partner.

Meanwhile, his experience in Moscow – where teachers often are sent invitations to come to the U.S. to teach – provided the link that brought him to Memphis.

“I was training many students, and I participated in over 150 competitions,” he said. “When I was in Moscow, there was one studio in Memphis that sent me an invitation to come teach, and they brought me here. I came straight from Moscow to Memphis. I worked with them for two years, and I then quit to teach by myself. I started Dancing With Arman in 2011.”

The move on his own in Memphis was because he felt that opening his own operation would allow him more freedom. The freedom to “actually do what you want and create, like how I feel. By myself, I can do much better.”

He secured space for his studio in the Bert Ferguson Community Center, and he also teaches lessons in private homes. Programs he provides include master classes, choreography for theater and programs for models, singers and weight loss and fitness regimens.

His choreography program, for example, is geared toward preparing entertainers to take the stage “with experience and confidence” and to teach them “how to impress and even mesmerize the audience.”

“Dance is the unspoken language of the soul, an original and ancient expression of humanity,” his studio website, www.dancingwitharman.com, tells visitors. “A person conveys his or her feelings, emotions and wishes through dance.”

His program includes instruction in several different dances that students might be interested in, including Latin-American and European dances, Argentine tango, pasodoble and flamenco, swing and others.

Benefits of dancing, he explains, include burning calories, increasing muscle tone and contributing to a toned body figure.

“I teach private lessons and group classes,” he said. “But it’s not just about teaching certain dances. For example, many people want to lose weight. So I help them move for weight loss. That’s one problem. Shaping – that’s another problem. When people get married, they might want to learn a wedding dance. So I’m not just like a teacher. I’m like a personal coach.”

His website greets visitors in large letters with his simple, four-word philosophy.

“Dance and be happy.”

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