Anna Pipoyan’s got talent. That’s why the Armenian-born belly dancer found herself on the uber popular show America’s Got Talent—with a candelabra on her head! We spoke with Anna about dancing, her passion for teaching children, and why (almost) anything can become a belly dancing prop!
Anna, how did you get your start in dancing?
I was born in Armenia in the capital of Yerevan. I danced ballet since I was five-years-old. I came to New York and continued dancing. There weren’t that many dancing opportunities in Armenia. When I got here, I was completely confused, so I started to take classes. I took jazz and ballet, but my passion was always traditional dances, more ethnic. I couldn’t see myself here doing Armenian dance, so I started doing flamenco. I like dance with history that has roots. From flamenco, then I got interested in belly dancing. A friend did belly dancing and it interested me. But I was always interested in mixing it all; Spanish with Arabic with a modern flavor. Step by step I got into it.
How did America’s Got Talent come to be?
It was a very exciting experience. They recruited me and asked if I wanted to be a part of the show. So I packed my huge candelabra and then auditioned and got on stage.
What was it like performing?
It was overwhelming; I didn’t expect it to be so big. The stage was so big and it was all so surreal. I went with the flow; this is who I am. You don’t get to show yourself completely; you only get to dance for one minute, so it’s a very synchronized, choreographed minute! It all comes down to one minute. I had been dancing since I was 5, and everything that I was came down to 60 seconds, and go!
How did you think to use the candelabra?
It’s very traditional, as an entrance in weddings for the bride and the groom. I was really criticized about doing it, and I thought, “Why not? It’s a prop.” My routine was a mix of modern with a slight hip-hop and belly dance and traditional movements with a traditional prop. You have to do something that will be different, but you.
What happened after the show?
It took another turn in my career. I got more opportunities to dance on bigger stages, and dance around the world. I did other music videos, too. I would like to have my own little booking agency. I have a group of dancers now who do all different types of dances. Teaching is also a passion of mine, so I would love to continue teach. I teach both children and adults. I teach belly dance and ballet for kids. With kids, it’s just fun. I’m strict, but I go with the flow with them. They motivate you and give you great ideas, too.
What else do you use in your dances?
I’m a prop freak. I use snakes as a prop, it’s an 8-foot long albino snake. The snake is my partner, and her name is Sunshine. I use fire fans, swords, wings, anything. It’s a challenge and it’s exciting. I always do research first; it gives me respect for the prop and how to use it in a smart, interesting, fun way but still being respectful to it. It’s a huge world with so many different styles. I still want to master belly dancing and be successful in it. And with teaching, it will help me to teach better and express who you are.