Narratively

 

Play

The Caucasian Sensation

After decades spent leaping and spinning through the mountains of Dagestan, a homegrown dance legend reinvents himself in a New York City studio.

By | June 6, 2013

Every weekend, dozens of children and teens pack a Midwood, Brooklyn dance studio, where they soar like eagles, float like swans, stomp, shout, spin and grimace for hours on end. All of this takes place under the watchful eye of Anatoliy Vartanian, director and choreographer of the LezginkaNYC dance ensemble. Lezginka is a sharp, expressive style of dance that originated in Caucasian Mountain villages hundreds of years ago and remains popular in places like Dagestan, Chechnya, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Although people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds dance Lezginka, most of Anatoliy’s students are Kavkazi Jews—those from the Caucasus, also called Gorsky or Mountain Jews. Many Kavkazi Jewish families settled in Brooklyn in the decade after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Dancing Lezginka, not just on stage but at weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and other celebrations, is an important Kavkazi tradition, and this is part of what keeps many of Anatoliy’s students returning year after year. Vartanian himself is a large reason why many of these students dance. Born in Dagestan and raised in an orphanage, Vartanian spent his youth traveling the world as a soloist in the first Lezginka Ensemble. He performed in sold-out concert houses across Europe and danced for Nikita Kruschev, Fidel Castro, and the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. To his students, Vartanian is a demanding teacher, a grandfather figure, and a living Lezginka legend.

Play

Faces of Freelance: Meet Carolyn

An award-winning producer on how freelancers bring freedom and innovation to structured work environments.

Play

Mission Impossible: Finding the Perfect Name for My Kid

A new dad on the nightmare-inducing challenge of coming up with a timeless but fresh, cool but not too cool name for his son.

Play

Adventure Is in My DNA

A filmmaker and surfer proudly explores her Indigenous roots, and discovers that thrill-seeking runs in the family.

Play

These 4 Women Are Taking on a Politician Near You

The coalminer’s daughter. The bartender. The police brutality activist. The grieving mother. Each looked at the man representing her in Congress and said, “I can do better.”

Play

The Grieving Mom Fighting for a Healthcare System That Actually Works

Amy Vilela lost her daughter when she couldn’t afford the medical bills. When her Congressman told her he wouldn’t support universal healthcare, Amy said, “I’m running.”

Play

This Ferguson Activist Wants to be Missouri’s First Black Congresswoman

Cori Bush is a registered nurse, a pastor and a mom. After taking to the streets to protest police killings, she looked in the mirror and said, “why not politician, too?”

Play

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Pulled Off the Biggest Upset in Congressional History

In early 2018, we introduced you to a bartender from the Bronx trying to pull off what many said was impossible. Here’s how AOC became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Play

This Coalminer’s Daughter Is Mad as Hell—And Running for the U.S. Senate

Paula Jean Swearengin has seen West Virginia’s land exploited, its people fall ill, and its politicians do nothing. So she decided to do something herself.

Play

The Collector of Time

As Mark McKinley puts it, “no collector ever says, ‘I’ve gone too far.'” After 27 years and an official Guinness World Record, he stands by that statement.