Dance Channel TV's Arsen Serobian Interview - A Bolshoi Dancer with a Dream to Train a New Generation of Dancers

My 10-year-old daughter is a dancer and a year ago we were highly recommended to a new studio in Encino called Dance Channel TV Studios.  We tried one class and after an hour with Arsen Serobian my daughter had dreams of becoming a Prima Ballerina!  A year later, that dream is a full-fledged career goal.  How did this man transform my daughter so dramatically?  I decided to find out more about him, his studio and his visions for the future.

 

Leaping at DCTV

 

Ariella working on her dream

Sitting down on a windy, LA morning, I asked Arsen how he first came to ballet. “I say, you don't go to ballet, it comes to you . . . once you see it, you understand this is yours.”  Seeing Baryshnikov perform inspired him to “want to fly like that” and he began dancing at the age of 10 in Armenia.  Although starting off in folk dancing, he was told he had classical lines and should go into ballet. After beginning his ballet training in the capital of Armenia, he was forced to leave the country after the 1988 earthquake and moved to Russia. “I went to the Moiseyev school, which is also for folk dancing. I really liked folk dancing. But again they said, ‘He is too classical.  You should send him to the Bolshoi.’” So at the relatively late age of 13, Arsen was accepted at the Bolshoi and began his classical ballet training in earnest.

  

Arsen Serobian

“Once I graduated, I started guesting at the Bolshoi. My teacher, Alexander Bondarenko, was Dean of the School. I did a lot of privates with him.  I wanted to stay and join the company, but I had to leave. It was not a good time to stay in Russia. I came to the United States and started dancing in Ohio because my sister was there. I joined Ohio Ballet. And then something was not right and I quit dancing.”

 

 

I was shocked.  He quit dancing to go to school to study English, computer technology and yet felt like he was “doing something wrong”.  As fate would have it, he came upon a university ad for a male dancer for the ballet, Le Corsaire.  He ended up dancing the role and receiving a full scholarship!  Professionally, Arsen said, “I started guesting. I went to the Cleveland Ballet, Indianapolis Ballet; New York and ABT; Milwaukee Ballet.  Jumping from company to company and even some local schools that paid better than some companies for doing Nutcrackers.”

 

Finding himself stagnant artistically, he returned to the world of technology.  He ended up in Silicon Valley “working with Cisco Systems Company, and dance had become a part time job. But I was comfortable financially with my tech job and sometimes what happens is whatever pays, we get stuck there and say ‘no’ to the beautiful things we started from a young age. So for everyone, I recommend don’t give up things you really love.” Arsen shared with me that the dance world felt closed and inaccessible without social media and the internet and said, “The world right now changed the way dance and dancers are exposed.  For example, once if there was a dancer dancing in Kentucky, no one would ever know about it. Now, they’ll put themselves on YouTube and suddenly they’re getting invitations to the competition, the company and next thing you know, she’s a star.”

 

 

Another turn in Arsen’s journey was acting. “I feel dance is theater, it’s art and it’s a lot of acting.  You have to tell the story without opening the mouth.  With your body, your arms, your expressions, your emotions.  It throws me back to Charlie Chaplin time, when just by looking at his face you knew what was going on. That was art.  That was acting. 

 

“I came to Los Angeles and went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.  I joined a couple agencies for dance and got booked for commercials and films. I got paid more than any time I worked in any ballet companies by sitting on my couch from the residuals. And I thought, ‘There’s something wrong with this picture.’

 

 

“I started Dance Channel TV because I wanted to change the way dancers are treated.  I wanted to get dancers on TV while they perform, they entertain, and then they sit on the couch while they cannot move anymore and they get residuals. Actors can act until they are 80.  Dancers have a much more limited career.  We had a channel with 200 subscribers to see interviews with artists and now it’s all changed because of technology and competition.  So that’s what I was doing the last 10 years – really pushing Dance Channel TV forward, interviewing artists in Los Angeles, promoting them, educating people in a different way.  Teaching them what dance is really all about.

 

 

SeeDance.com was developed pretty much with DanceChannelTV.com. I felt like creating something similar to Yelp but just to do with dance. So it’s a directory of where you can see live performances and then people writing reviews – honest reviews.

“Suddenly, schools started inviting me to teach master classes. After giving privates to some kids, I understood that this is still really my thing. That you have to pass your knowledge from generation to generation.  Good knowledge.  You have to teach kids the best possible way and the way they can learn.  Maybe they aren’t going to be dancers, but they should learn how that art form has been done for 225 years.  A couple dancers pushed me to open the studio because I saw their potential, but didn’t have enough space to work with them.  I sent a couple girls to Youth America Grand Prix, they did pretty good, and I thought I really should have a studio.” 

 

 

Of course building a new studio can be challenging. Yet Arsen is clear that this intense training is necessary if a dancer desires a professional career, and he is passionate about providing an opportunity to anyone willing to put in the work.

 

 

From a parent’s perspective, I am amazed at the way Arsen instructs his students.  It’s part dance, part physics, part anatomy, part magic. He explains in such clear detail where every body part should be in order to successfully execute a skill in a way I’ve never seen before. I wanted to hear, however, what he feels makes his studio unique.

 

 

“I think I provide something that dancers, if they have talent or they don’t, I will push them to their limits to really understand the right way to do the steps.  The right way of the Classical Vaganova training. Hard work is actually more important than talent. In my past, I’ve seen talent would die without hard work. I provide completely understanding the body, how it works in Classical Ballet and how it should work, but it’s all up to the kids how badly they want to learn.  I will provide every knowledge, specifically how your bones, your structure, the muscles will execute the steps to make your dancing easier. And once the foundations, the fundamentals of Classical Ballet become placed and everything is easy, they will execute any advanced step they need to because the body is already prepared.

 

 

 “The ultimate vision is to create, especially in Los Angeles, an educational place where the kids can be here from 9am to 9pm.  Their academic grades need to match their grades in classical ballet.  A similar training to the Vaganova, Kirov or Bolshoi.  You have school, break, and go into the dancing.  I think that’s the only way you become a professional dancer. At the same time I would like to create documentary stories on growth of the dancers, filming and archiving them.  People can then watch segments and educate themselves on the process.  And as they are educating, revenue comes in to provide scholarships.  You have to find different sources, especially right now when support of the arts is going down, from other corporate or different types of products that will actually help to educate those kids. I am looking at ways those resources can come in and build a worldwide studio. I would like to invite teachers and it can all be broadcast so that people can see from all over the world how the teaching is done.”

 

 

Currently, Dance Channel TV Studios is gearing up for their summer intensive program and holding auditions.  “It’s going to be this summer for 8 weeks and you can register 4 weeks at a time.  The concentration will be on classical ballet, plus pointe classes, partnering, historical dance, character classes – which is one of the most important things kids should learn in order to have presence on stage – and again, really concentrating on technique.”

 

 

Dance Channel TV Studios offers an academy for the serious ballet student and offers adult classes and stretch/conditioning classes for students and adults.  He’s also planning classes for younger children, ages 4-5, to introduce them to ballet and classical music.

 

 

You can find out more about DanceChannelTV.com, SeeDance.com and Dance Channel TV Studios by clicking the links here.  You can also read more about Arsen Serobian in a previous LA Times article and an Armenain Reporter article.

Photos: Courtesy of DanceChannelTV

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