By Rachel Shuster
Mark Harootian, a Worcester native, began dancing at an early age. “I started dancing when I was about 8 years old. I never thought of dancing though. I was chosen to be in a school performance at Flagg Street School, and principal Dr. Judith Finkel saw something in me. She called my mother and said, ‘He has a real talent with dance.’ My mother then put me into the boys’ dance program at the Performing Arts School of Worcester (PASOW). At first, I was not into it, but my mom encouraged me, so I kept with it,” he says.
Harootian’s love for dance grew because of an inspirational teacher and friendships he made. “You think of boys dancing and a stereotype comes to mind, but Kevin Milam, my teacher, was very ‘manly.’ I began making friendships and we [boys] bonded because we all liked sports and similar things, so dance became a social thing, too,” he says.
In 7th grade, Harootian began taking dance seriously. He attended Burncoat High School in Worcester, which specialized in the arts. “I took two hours of dance a day with Joan Sheary, and then went to PASOW to dance from 4pm-9pm,” he says.
Harootian attended the University of Utah on a full scholarship where he studied dance and graduated with a BFA with an emphasis on performing and teaching. He performed in and choreographed many of the department’s seasonal shows. “Opportunities opened for me to choreograph. I was the first undergrad to choreograph for the Utah Ballet,” Harootian says.
After college, Harootian joined Festival Ballet Providence where he was one of 25 dancers. After seven seasons he is now a choreographer. However, Harootian has not forgotten his hometown. He teaches at Paula Meola Dance Studio and is in his sixth year teaching at Ballet Arts Worcester (BAW).
Regarding his love for teaching, Harootian says, “Choreographing provides a different perspective. It’s a creative process. I get to learn from students and vice versa.”
Harootian’s biggest dance influences include, as do most dancers’, Mikhail Baryshnikov, but even more so, the teachers under whom he studied while growing up. “They are my true heroes ~ always telling me I am capable,” he says.
Some of Harootian’s favorite dance moments include being chosen as a lead dancer in a Festival performance, working with John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow, and performing with the Boston Ballet. Others include receiving a choreography grant from the Rhode Island State Council of the Arts in 2007, performing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Medal Plaza, and being part of the Festival of White Nights in Pushkin, Russia.
Despite his impressive list of accomplishments in the dance world, Harootian stays grounded. “I haven’t forgotten my roots. Jennifer Agbay, Director of Dance for BAW [and a former PASOW alumna], encouraged me to stay with BAW and keep my energy alive there. I owe Worcester a lot for my passion for the arts,” he says.
Pictued (above): Mark and Lauren Kennedy perform a pas de deux from “The Nutcracker” at the Hanover Theatre in Worcester, 2010. Photo courtesy of MikeNymanPhotography.com.
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