Party lovers, nocturnal animals, knowledgeable audiophiles, enthusiastic event-goers, festival freaks, and everybody in between – welcome home.
This new series under the name “The Story After” is where we’re going to be coming together and sharing the stories of the events that changed our lives.
Who is Kosta Karakashyan?
I am a dreamer, an artist, and someone who believes in social justice. I believe in the power of art and culture to change how we approach life and that a nice encounter with a piece of art can soothe our souls the same way that exercise and medicine can do for our bodies.
I introduce myself as a Bulgarian-Armenian director, choreographer, performer, and writer exploring empathy through movement and storytelling. Most recently, I also launched my production company Studio Karakashyan with my producer and partner Todor Barganov, where we focus on projects related to dance, film, and artist development.
Describe what is dancing to you with a film.
For me, dancing is an incredible way to explore intention. When you dance, you can transform into another character (if you approach the task with a laser-sharp focus) or you can move, just observing the impulses of your body, with no predetermined outcome. Both of these modes test our intention and the way we sublimate certain sensations into something beautiful, joyous, or pleasurable.
A film that I adore through and through is the eponymous documentary about contemporary dancer Bobbi Jene Smith directed by Elvira Lind. Bobbi talks a lot about finding pleasure in effort and how the body and mind are one integrated system. She is a wonderful source of inspiration.
You work as a dancer, choreographer, producer, and director. That’s a lot of different roles and projects you’re constantly juggling! Where do you draw inspiration from? What keeps you going?
For me and my personality type, I know I need to commit myself to work that feels meaningful to me and others on a constant basis, no matter at what scale or level the project is. Working consistently keeps my demons at bay and lets me feel at my most fulfilled. I know if I take a long time to just observe and not fiddle around with ideas, I start to sulk and compare myself to other artists. As long as I have something to play with, I’m happy and that gives me a feeling of working towards something, even if the contribution itself is small sometimes.
I really like creative exchanges with other artists, especially people I meet online. I’ve collaborated with composers, graphic designers, and photographers that I’ve only met online, and it can be a really great way to create something completely new without changing your process fundamentally. Creative exchange and mentorship are fundamental to creating better opportunities for our art sector as a whole, and that’s why I’m investing a lot of my time in education and artist development for young creatives. This way, they will have as much of the information they need right off the bat.
As a dancer, do you dance differently when you go to a concert or a party?
I think I dance with the same vibes as everyone else at the concert or party, but maybe the result is a bit more extra. I actually try to approach dancing in front of an audience or choreographing a performance with the same sense of fun as dancing by myself. I love spontaneity and letting the music move me in new ways, which I think is pretty universal for everyone who is a music lover!
There is a really awesome NY Times article by one of my teachers, the dance critic Siobhan Burke, in which she observes, describes and interviews professional dancers about what it’s like to let it all go on the dance floor. I highly recommend giving it a read.
Tell us about an event that changed your life.
Seeing Bobbi Jene Smith’s performance Lost Mountain at LaMa was one very potent transformative experience for me.
It’s a dance piece that captures so many things I enjoy – seeing dancers from different styles and ages move powerfully together, a topical theme of the shifts and losses to the environment, and incredible synthesis between the musicians and dance performers. The movement was also visceral, authentic, and dynamic, but seeing all of these other art forms so neatly folded into the mix made me think, “Wow, I didn’t know I was allowed to bring all of my influences as an artist in one place”.
From there I developed my own immersive works such as KITCHEN, a culinary dance performance that takes the audience behind the psychological scene of the professional chef. Moreover, we’ve been working on our new immersive production The Last Sunset which tackles air pollution in Bulgaria and will have its world premiere as part of the 25th Gabrovo Biennial of Humor & Satire in Art, co-produced by Goethe-Institut and supported by the National Culture Fund of Bulgaria.
What are 3 events that every dancer should know about?
Every dancer should try Batsheva Dance Company’s online Gaga classes, an extension of their movement language Gaga which aims to change the way we approach dance and everyday movement. There are Gaga / dancers (more suitable for professionals) and Gaga / people (suitable for everyone) classes, so there’s something for everyone, but it’s incredibly transformative, no matter what style of dance you usually do!
I would also say every dancer should see what their local art galleries are up to and aim to get involved with the visual arts scene. Right now in Sofia, there are lots of inspiring exhibitions like The Time Has Come to Talk of Many Things… at the National Gallery.
Finally, dancers and other artists in Sofia should check out our Artist Development Masterclass series at Studio Karakashyan. This month I’ll be leading a workshop on developing your portfolio and digital presence, and I can’t wait to share all the lessons I’ve accumulated so far!
How was the idea behind your Artist Development Masterclasses born?
Since moving back to Bulgaria two years ago, I’ve met many artists who have the talent or the skills but haven’t yet figured out all the little work habits that can get in their own way. To be a creative person that people want to work with, you have to figure out how to bring good energy to a project, how to collaborate effectively, how not to waste people’s time, how to know when to offer suggestions and when to let someone else guide you. A lot of these skills are usually developed on jobs, but I felt the need to bring people up to speed a bit quicker in order to make our creative process even smoother.
Sometimes, when we are producing and casting projects through Studio Karakashyan and I need to recommend dancers, choreographers, composers, or other creatives, I have a hard time making the case for them, when they themselves don’t put their best foot forward. That’s why we developed the idea for the Artist Development Masterclass series with Todor and Vihra Shopova who leads our Artist Development initiatives.
You will be teaching at your upcoming Artist Development Masterclass on February 19th! What should everyone expect and prepare for?
This class will be on a topic that I spent a lot of time researching but have never shared with other artists before – how to develop a really strong visual portfolio and digital presence.
I’ll give my tips and tricks on how to make sure that your work is easily discoverable and how to tweak things so it makes a stronger first impression. We wanted to make this masterclass feel more like a lab or a clinic, so Vihra and photographer Boris Urumov will be joining me and providing individual feedback for everyone who signs up. After my lecture, I will be providing feedback on your portfolio, Vihra will be assessing your CV, and Boris will take one free headshot of you so that you can go home with an instant professional glow-up!
You’ve already done 3 events using our platform. What would you tell other event organizers about Plentix?
As a team we are always optimizing and creating new iterations of our initiatives, so working with Plentix has been really inspiring. I really value that when we plan our events, Plentix provides marketing and design consultations and we can develop how the events look and feel together. It’s not just a ticketing platform, but more of a natural extension of our outreach goals and creative mission.
The list of people we’ve been eyeing for an interview is getting longer and longer, and you can also be a part of it! This is a space for anyone who’s ever attended an event (whether that’s a digital conference, a yoga retreat, a techno festival, or… you name it!) and has something to say about it.
How did it change your life? What did you learn? Who did you meet? What did you feel? We can talk about the connections we’ve made while we continue building new ones. Let’s co-create a memory book full of recollections we’d like to keep forever.
Don’t miss out on the rest of the series, read the previous interview here.