Photography by Catherine Khorrami & Giacomo Oliviero
Written by Jonathan Marshall
In our last piece about Artin Avaznia, we introduced an artist that was making their debut into film with his tribute project, The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film.
Inspired by one of his most esteemed idols and teachers, Janet Jackson, Artin wanted to recreate the feelings he remembered experiencing when he first heard the original album in his youth.
Now he follows in her footsteps once more, with his performance at Ottawa’s popular Westfest.
Artin was the first solo dance artist to appear on the Westfest stage since its inception 15 years prior. In his multi-set performance, he acknowledges the great dancers that led him to where he is today, but more importantly he struts into his own story with sensual and provocative displays of choreography he spent months devising.
“Ever since last summer, I’ve been experimenting with new ideas and visions for my performance,” says Artin. “My goal is how you receive my piece; it’s one thing to be entertaining, it’s another to be understood.”
His routine was exacting, and perfect in its execution. The crowd that swelled from a dozen to over 200 once he took the stage sang as his feet sailed and shook every time his cane landed with crack. They couldn’t help but feel that hand on his thigh, or how the bass rhythm replaced their own heartbeat. Artin’s aim was to entrance, and his body was working magic.
While Artin is no stranger to live performances, this was by far the largest audience he had ever had the chance to enthrall.
“My career is just taking off,” he muses. “It’s important to me that every step of the way I am proving myself to be better than I was before, and to offer powerful emotions to my fans.”
Certainly, he gave everything that day. The future is ripe for Artin, and if he continues to progress as he has been -a soul brimming with passion- then Ottawa will soon see this talented choreographer reaching heights that heroes are made on.
In this story that will be continued, Artin Avaznia leaves us with moments to be remembered...
Artin Avaznia: Go Back and Get It
Written by Danielle Blais, Photography by Jason Champagne
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At 21, Artin Avanzia already has many experiences under his belt; leaving school to become a professional dancer and artist is just one of them. Now he and a collective of local dancers will be unveiling his most involving project thus far; The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film, in tribute to the album by Janet Jackson.
Artin began making music videos to showcase his talents around the same time he enrolled in Carleton’s social work program, though he had been developing his choreography skills long before. In his second year of school it became apparent which of these two futures was to become his vocation, and Artin decided to take a risk and give himself the opportunity to concentrate on becoming a professional dance choreographer.
“I wanted to use this time to take myself to another level, to elevate myself and my craft.”
While in school, Artin was unable to dedicate the time he needed to augment expertise in a profession that necessitates near-constant improvement. After accepting his new role, Artin took it upon himself to embrace every aspect of the music and dance industry; creating album reviews, improving his video production, generating vlog posts based around travel and music, all of which led to an increase in his viewership and found that his subscribers could already tell that this was an amateur no longer.
Artin has always had a love affair with music videos, especially those by his teachers and legendary artists Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Jackson, who wove complex motifs into their performances and lifted the focus above the music and into its carnal expression. He feels that his generation of dancers was the last to really develop alongside this phenomenon of cinematic production, and it’s how he - like many others - learned their craft. Artin is a product of his time; he is what happens when you don’t give up on a dream.
“As a solo artist, I hope to elevate the foreground and creative representation of the craft with my self-produced dance visuals. With the incorporation of different plot settings, storylines and costumes, this is my attempt to introduce a new perspective to the song and defy the conventional description of a dancer.”
It is intoxicating to watch Artin dance. In documenting this piece I collaborated with the talented Jason Clifford Champagne, who specializes in black and white photography. Artin brought his cousin, Tina Sol, who, with their mutual friend Sofia Snook, have worked together for many years to create independent projects surrounding dance score. We met up at the Bridgehead by Preston and then walked a short distance to an overpass where we began the shoot. It followed the length of a long industrial building, but the left side was open with spots covered by brush and undergrowth. It was late in the day, a pearl-grey sky giving us clear light even under the overpass. Tina moved around us quietly with a GoPro, and we had some Janet Jackson - a formative teacher for Artin - playing in the background.
Artin is a very confident dancer and not afraid to play around to see what works. He expresses his love for learning, be it by experimenting under an overpass or working with other dancers to create something collaborative and emotionally powerful, illustrated by the mindset that subsumes him as he slips into his flow. Jason took a few static shots before asking him to dance. “Well, what do you want?” with Jason down on the ground testing out different light shots and angles, “Something Janet-inspired.” Artin delivered. He moved smoothly, a telling sign that he had practiced until he could do this in his sleep - though you could never mistake his eyes askance.
“Half of a performance is the skill set - the rest is the connection I develop with the audience. I’m in front of you giving it my all, and if I close my eyes or look away, that’s showing you I’m not confident in my own ability, that my mind is elsewhere. Why should you respect me if I’m not confident in my art?”
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After, he showed us his discipline by performing one of his own routines; its free flowing nature exemplary of an artist crafting dynamic sculpture from the air. With Janet in mind, Artin is able to express himself with grace and honest fun, becoming the physical representation of the feeling her music lends.
To reach his goals, Artin has used this year wisely. Recently, he has begun his most daring project yet: a 30-minute dance short film inspired by Janet Jackson's Velvet Rope. The album (which turns 20 this year) denounces homophobia and opened the conversation about abuse and mental health. Much of the music is centred around our obsessive need to feel special, and uses the Ghanese concept of ‘sankofa’ to tie together a masterpiece that deserves to be listened to in chronological completion in order to reveal the interdependent marvels that, much like our own lives, need to be worked through to fully appreciate the journey we set ourselves upon.
"In order to heal as a human being, you need to open up books you had closed, chapters you never finished. So I had to go back and finish parts of my story.”
Like many artists, he hopes that this would reach Janet, but most importantly Artin wishes his portrayal of Janet’s character will make his audience feel the same way he did the very first time he listened to her album in his room so many years ago.
He isn’t going on this journey alone, from the beginning he has had the love and support from his family and close friends. He is also collaborating with a wide array of local talent, those he knows will add their own flair to the piece. This includes seven Ottawa dancers; Chris WanKam, JR, Bboy Crazy-Smooth, Dirty, Geni Lou, Taylor Poscente and Armel Mzalina, their various styles ranging from break dancing, waaking, to contemporary performances. Also featured in the film is Prufrock, slam poet and hip-hop artist, who will be performing an original piece, with Tina Sol recreating the iconic violin piece originally performed by Vanessa Mae on the Velvet Rope. Also featured in the film are local Ottawa businesses, PPL. Nightclub and Planet Coffee.
Artin's dedicated team, Tina Sol, Sofia Snook, and Kalin Anguelov will be capturing every element of The Velvet Rope: A Dance Short Film. Set to be released October 7th, the film is highly anticipated to demonstrate Ottawa’s flourishing dance scene and rekindle Janet’s message through Artin’s own interpretation,
“Don’t ever let nobody tell you, you ain’t strong enough.”
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You can find Artin on his;