International Dance Centre to Revitalise Gyumri
As Gyumri approaches the 30th anniversary of the 1988 earthquake that devastated it, Ballet2021 Foundation is developing a new project to help revitalise the local economy by transforming Gyumri into an international dance center.

The Kharatian Experiential Arts Centre is set to begin construction in 2019, and to open in 2021. The Kharatian Experiential Arts Centre, Gyumri project is implemented with a European Union grant provided to AGBU Armenia’s Bridge for CSOs programme, funded by the European Union.  

It’s conceived as a state-of-the-art multi-purpose centre for the performing arts that will act as a centre for a new and interdisciplinary approach to dance and high culture. Its performance space, humanities and movement research centre, dance academy, and choreography program are among the many facets of the projects that are designed to bring people from all over Armenia - and all over the world - to Gyumri.

At the core of the project is Roudolf Kharatian’s world-renowned dance philosophy, which explains the dance on three levels – physical, mental and emotional. He sees both ballet and Armenian identity as concepts that have diverse roots and influences, and through this project seeks to delve deep into each source to understand its impact. That’s why Gyumri is a fantastic site for this: its rich history as Armenia’s cultural capital make it the perfect location for the rise of the new Armenian creative class that the Kharatian centre seeks to help create.

It will find a home near the train station, in the old cultural centre, which was destroyed by the earthquake like most of the city. 30 years later, the building’s main walls are still standing: they will be the core of Montreal-based architect Azad Chichmanian’s concept for a building that fuses together old and new. He aims to capture the space within the walls and allow it to become a centre of creation, for today and for tomorrow.  

“We’re approaching the design on three levels. First, there is the functional level of designing an efficient centre for the performing arts. Second, looking beyond that, we have to consider its wider role in the urban fabric. This project is aimed at reviving a part of the city that has been neglected and can act as an anchor that people will gravitate towards, a hub of daily cultural life in the city. Last but not least, there is the symbolic aspect of the building: any building, regardless of its function – even if it’s a hospital, for instance – should attempt to lift the spirit.” It is with this framework in mind that Chichmanian is undertaking this colossal project, which he sees as an important boost to Gyumri’s economy and reputation. 

Last, but not least, it aims to put Gyumri and Armenia on the map as a unique destination to experience art and spirituality, to spark intellectual curiosity, and to share Armenian culture.

The Ballet2021 foundation is a non-governmental organisation that aims to promote the development of ballet in Armenia.