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Evolution Dance Theatre: How One Woman’s Leap of Faith Birthed an Artistic Force Uniting Cultures

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9 minutes
Image: Evolution Dance Theatre

When artistic director and president Armineh Keshishian assembled her first production of Evolution Dance Theatre in 2006, she only had a vague idea for an opening scene and the final ending envisioned in her mind. 

Yet armed with an unbridled passion for the performing arts and Middle Eastern culture, she knew the production had to happen even if the details were yet to unfold. She hired professional performers based solely on trust that the full story would reveal itself through the rehearsal process.

Evolution Dance Theatre and Armineh’s Leadership Role

Evolution Dance Theatre seeks to celebrate cross-cultural commonalities while also deepening appreciation for traditions across borders. 

Headquartered in Toronto with over fifty diverse performers brought in from around the world, the company specializes in entertaining, educational productions that tantalize the senses. 

From the colorful swirling dervishes of ancient Persia to emotionally charged tales of modern taboos, Keshishian’s choreography boldly traverses time and space to spotlight the inextricable and uplifting connections tying all people together despite surface-level differences.

Over a riveting fifteen-year journey, Keshishian has kept Evolution Dance Theatre on the pulse of cutting-edge creativity while amplifying the universal stories closest to her own heart. 

Detailed visuals and dramatic spoken word elements charge each emotionally captivating production with moments to make even the weariest cynic believe in oneness again. 

For Keshishian and her talented troupe, Entertainment, Education, and Inspiration are always the prime directives guiding Evolution Dance Theatre’s unparalleled adventure to the very depth of the human spirit.

Armineh’s Inspiring Journey

Armineh Keshishian’s lifelong passion for dance first took root during her childhood in the Middle East. Surrounded by rich cultural traditions, she fell in love with the pulsing rhythms and intricate movements of regional styles. 

Yet even after immigrating to North America as a teen, dance remained a lifeline keeping her grounded amidst the turbulence of adapting to a foreign language and culture.

The Pivotal Moment of Starting to Perform Middle Eastern/Belly Dance

While in university, Keshishian balanced her business studies with recreational dance classes. After graduating, her knack for numbers led to a thriving career as a financial consultant. 

But in her free time, she increasingly felt drawn back to performance art by enrolling in Middle Eastern and belly dance courses. Her talent captured local attention and she soon found herself fielding offers to join bands and troupes around Toronto.

Balancing Financial Career and Dance Hobby

At first, Keshishian hesitated to showcase belly dancing so publicly due to the activity’s stigma in some conservative circles. But ultimately her courage to challenge outdated taboos won out. 

She began moonlighting as a rising dance star on the weekends, deftly managing her finances by day while conquering new creative ventures by night.

The decision to Create Evolution Dance Theatre Production in 2006

By 2006, Keshishian yearned to weave stories and dance on an even grander scale. She envisioned opening and closing scenes for an original production focused on the universality of human trials and triumphs. 

Without further details, she put out a casting call for performers from an array of cultural backgrounds. Remarkably, the artists not only gelled as a team but organically uncovered the heart of a compelling narrative linking their talents over ensuing rehearsals. 

The runaway success of this initial foray into producing set Evolution Dance Theatre in motion as a boundary-breaking force celebrating inclusion through transformational live entertainment.

Evolution Dance Theatre’s Unique Mission

At its core, Evolution Dance Theatre utilizes the performing arts as a vehicle to unite global cultures through resonant stories told with extravagant multicultural flair. 

Whether transporting audiences from ancient Persian temples to modern Toronto high-rises, the company’s productions aim both to entertain imaginations while also educate minds on the boundless diversity of the human experience.

Goal to Unite Global Cultures through Performances

Keshishian centers inspiration at the creative nucleus guiding everything Evolution Dance Theatre manifests for its devoted fans. She believes visceral performances should not only dazzle the senses but also awaken viewers to uplifting new perspectives. 

That signature approach comes to life perhaps most vividly in the company’s acclaimed production “Follow Your Heart.

Entertainment, Education, and Inspiration

This mesmerizing show encapsulates a timeless love story between two young outsiders resisting the pull of familial and societal expectations to find an authentic life together on their terms. 

The narrative brought to the stage weaves themes of taboo romance with courage overcoming tradition. Meanwhile, the production dazzles through its seamless fusion of Middle Eastern cultural touchstones with contemporary genres. 

Over fifty classically trained dancers take viewers on an unforgettable journey celebrating free expression and inclusive communities.

“Follow Your Heart” Production


Critics showered “Follow Your Heart” in praise as a feast for both the eye and the soul upon its Toronto premiere. The media highlighted everything from the storyline to universal human truths across borders.

For many local reviewers, the show represented a one-of-a-kind experience only possible through Keshishian’s groundbreaking vision for uniting global perspectives under the welcoming banner of music and movement.

Pushing Artistic Boundaries

While artistry and technical excellence run bone deep throughout every Evolution Dance Theatre production, Keshishian also ensures her company constantly breaks new ground to remain an innovative leader in contemporary dance performance. 

Through enveloping original stories that confront prejudice while championing tolerance, Evolution Dance Theatre uses the stage as a dynamic platform to mirror the inclusive world it seeks to inspire beyond the theater.

Innovative Stories and Inclusive Messaging

That boundary-pushing creative vision will soon culminate in the massive undertaking of “Follow Your Heart – In the Ancient Persian Empire.” 

This upcoming theatrical spectacle represents Keshishian’s most ambitious project to date, whisking awe-struck attendees on a vivid journey across both time and human understanding. 

The production traverses between the cosmopolitan Persian Empire of antiquity where progressive leaders innovated culture and science while welcoming a diversity of immigrants and travelers from Europe to Asia and Africa to disseminate ideas. 

Juxtaposed is the rigid intolerance seizing much of present-day Middle East conflict zones even as globalization connects the wider world like never before.

Celebration of Ancient Acceptance and Multiculturalism

By exhibiting the stunning openness characterizing ancient Persian society centuries before the common era, Keshishian spotlights the human capacity for multicultural collaboration when hearts and minds remain flexible to new people and perspectives. 

Her latest show celebrates interconnection rather than building walls. 

Just as the Persian Empire absorbed diverse customs into its tapestry while allowing traditions to flow outward freely as well, “Follow Your Heart – In the Ancient Persian Empire” intends to seed modern communities with inspiration to lift narrow worldviews holding shared human potential hostage.

Resilience Through Challenges

Keshishian’s artistic visions shine clearly despite obstacles arising. Still, the shared commitment to imagination bonds the Evolution Dance Theatre troupe through adversity.

In 2006, just weeks after a strong debut run, several performers unexpectedly quit with encore shows scheduled. Keshishian quickly rehearsed understudies in complex choreography and added new cast members. Together they triumphed in flexibility and trust.

Later, Keshishian lost her entire male folk dance roster before reviving their premiere production. Undeterred, she trained newcomers in traditional techniques from scratch awaiting integration. She turned setbacks into opportunities.

In 2013, mere weeks pre-launch, Keshishian painfully canceled “Follow Your Heart’s” debut, unraveling years of development. She found resilience despite financial and emotional burdens to stage the acclaimed production two years later.

For Keshishian, such perseverance connects unbreakable human creativity onstage with Evolution Dance Theatre’s unrelenting vision of thriving into the future.

Pride in bringing shows to the stage two years later

“Follow Your Heart” finally took Toronto’s stages by storm to great acclaim as artists and audiences celebrated rising from the ashes.

For Keshishian, such perseverance in production after production speaks to the power of unbreakable human creativity that connects her work onstage with the unrelenting vision of Evolution Dance Theatre thriving for years to come.

Artistic Achievements

Evolution Dance Theatre stands apart for its original productions that both entertain imaginatively and also promote insightful social dialogue.

Letter from Canadian Prime Minister

The company received a letter of recognition from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau celebrating its cultural bridge-building mission. 

Meanwhile, media outlets consistently praise how Evolution Dance Theatre’s exhilarating performances manage to tangibly unite diverse artistic disciplines and perspectives among cast members that resonate outward to resonate with inclusive audiences as well. 

Through the labor of love infused into each production, Keshishian and the company plant seeds of interconnection rather than divisions across communities.

Leadership Philosophy and Core Values

Keshishian cultivates an open, collegial culture at Evolution Dance Theatre grounded in mutual trust and respect. She encourages artists to think creatively without fear of judgment while emphasizing fluid communication that keeps all stakeholders’ voices heard. 

By liberating performers to imagine wildly and ever elevate their technical prowess through positive reinforcement, Evolution Dance Theatre achieves incredible synchronicity onstage with diverse talents harmonizing for the greater artistic vision rather than competing in isolation. 

The Future of Evolution Dance Theatre

As a pioneering artistic force, Evolution Dance Theatre remains poised to keep advancing the cause of multicultural celebration through dance performances for years to come. 

With an open-minded millennial generation hungry for radical inclusion now ascending into positions of cultural influence, the company’s model for organically fusing styles and stories from around the world sits ahead of the curve. 

This potential found its biggest spotlight yet with the Las Vegas booking of Evolution Dance Theatre’s latest exhibition “Follow Your Heart – In the Ancient Persian Empire.” The high-profile premiere enables their progressive mission to ignite hearts and minds on an even grander scale.

Parting Words

From the first emotional swell of the orchestra to the final feather floating downward as the curtain closes, Evolution Dance Theatre consciously crafts performances to envelop viewers in an immersive world both familiar and unexpected. 

Like an enchanting dream blurring lines between fantasy and reality, their shows seamlessly transport audiences across cultures and eras through the ancient yet ever-evolving magic known as the human imagination. 

For Keshishian, success shines brightest in glowing faces and opened hearts as patrons excitedly reflect on the experience while invariably finding deeper compassion for unfamiliar people or worldviews encountered under the lights.


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