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Alidz Agbabian is a storyteller and author who specializes in Armenian and Middle Eastern oral traditions, bringing folk tales, myths, songs and legends to many communities nationwide and around the world. Based in Los Angeles, Agbabian offers classroom, library and museum presentations, residencies and teachers’ workshops, and develops special theme presentations for schools, exhibits, conventions and festivals. Known for her varied repertoire, she performs in a setting of cultural traditions, personal stories, artifacts, games and rhythmic speech that extends to the cultures of the Near East, the Mediterranean basin and the new Independent States (the former Soviet Union) in varied languages. As an author of children’s books, she has established Dziludzar Publications, which for the past dozen years has introduced high-quality, bilingual story books from the Armenian tradition to readers of all ages.
A professional storyteller, author and publisher, Alidz Agbabian specializes in Armenian and Middle Eastern oral traditions. She develops theme presentations for museums in conjunction with exhibits; performs at festivals, libraries and schools, and presents workshops. As an author of bilingual children’s books, she established Dziludzar Publications in 1996 and has helped introduce high-quality books and audio material of stories and songs from the Armenian tradition to readers of all ages everywhere.
Agbabian integrates personal family stories on intergenerational relationships between grandparents and grandchildren with traditional Armenian folk tales and folk songs. Her selections offer colorful imagery, insight and meaning to audiences of all ages in a variety of languages, presented in a setting of cultural traditions, personal stories, poetry, artifacts, games and rhythmic speech.
Born in the ancient city of Aleppo in Syria, Agbabian grew up on the shores of the blue Mediterranean in Beirut, Lebanon; consequently, she finds all the traditions from that area very dear to her heart, despite their national and cultural boundaries and differences. “It is wonderful to see how within this dense mosaic of nations living on the shores of the Mediterranean for many centuries,” she notes, “people have shared their stories and songs, and infused new meaning in them based on their own life experiences and viewpoints.”
Agbabian has graduated from Yerevan State University of Armenia with a master’s degree in Russian language. She moved to the United States and gained awareness of the power of the spoken word during workshops with storyteller Kathleen Zundell, whom she calls “mentor and friend.”
Oral and cultural traditions also infuse her domestic household. She is married to Hrant Agbabian—architect and choral conductor; her son Ari is an actor and dramaturge, while her daughter Areni is a pianist and folk singer. For special performances, Areni joins in to enhance the presentation.
At the forefront of exploring new ways to employ storytelling to advance oral traditions, Agbabian has done considerable work in research, education and musical collaborations. Of late she has teamed up with Areni and her son Ari, as well as other young talents — collectively known as the Tellers from the Mountain — for a series of performances. “I have always been fascinated by the idea of a converging point between generations of storytellers, and I’m very proud to be collaborating with these young artists,” she explains. “They inspire and energize me, and bring a whole new quality to the performance in terms of range, texture, rhythm, and vocal coloration.”
Following a 2006 trip to historic Armenian lands in what is now in eastern Turkey, Agbabian currently is working on a presentation based on the myths, legends, traditions and songs of the area around Lake Van.
“During my trip I had a chance to see Hassanbeyli, the village where my grandmother and great-grandparents were born, as well as my paternal grandfather’s home in the old Armenian quarters in the city of Aintab,” she says. “This was a pilgrimage which inspired me to read more about the history of my ancestors after my return. Some of these experiences will certainly find their way into my storytelling, witnessing the existence of a past which now lives in me.”