Antranig, the lively dance ensemble from New York that appeared at Lisner Auditorium Saturday night, both documents and celebrates a folk culture. The group is a creation of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, and it is one of the means by which AGBU helps perpetuate the spirit and traditions of its people.
This is not a professional troupe; the members -- more than 100 in all, 36 in the touring unit -- have other, full-time occupations. However, under the artistic direction of Randy Sapah-Gulian [who is also the chief choreographer and principal male dancer]. Antranig achieves a commendable degree of brilliance and polish. What's more, it has clearly absorbed some of the theatrical strategies of the larger national dance troupes, like the celebrated Moiseyev company of Russia. Folk step, patterns and customs are the basic ingredients, but Antranig puts on a show, in every sense of the word.
It's a robust, engaging show, for the most part -- the booted males do lots of acrobatic and virtuosic routines, including toe dancing and kazatskies; the women specialize in curvaceously ornate arm movements. The Lisner program ranged from categorical types, like sword and equestrian dances, to elaborate pageants [such as the three-act "The Wedding of Antranig"] illustrative of folk trades and ceremonies. The musical accompaniment, mostly recorded, helped maintain a nice balance between lyrical and energetic elements.