Dancing with the Stars judge Arthur Gourounlian: “This is where we belong, it just feels right” – DWTS judge Gourounlian “at home” after an incredible journey as a refugee

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When Arthur Gourounlian escaped the war in Armenia as a 12-year-old boy on an epic train journey across the plains of Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, he never imagined that one day he would be dancing on stage with Beyonce and the Spice- Girls.

In the months leading up to their escape, Kalashnikov fire rang out in the streets of Yerevan city at night, but after he was almost drafted to fight Azerbaijani forces because of his size for his age, his parents made the decision to leave the capital.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is an ongoing ethnic and territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a disputed region inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians.

Decades after walking out of his parents’ door with few belongings, the acclaimed choreographer has become a household name in Ireland for his passionate expression and extravagant style on RTÉs Dancing with the stars.

His journey to that spot on the glittering set began in a small Belgian village where his family eventually settled as refugees after traveling thousands of miles by rail. Four years later his father died.

The creative director, who now lives with his husband, is a former Big Brother Winner Brian Dowling in Kildare said he wasn’t always such an exuberant personality.

“I don’t take my life too seriously. Obviously coming from a refugee background, so much happened in my youth,” he said.

“When my father died, my life changed completely. I was a very shy boy. I was 16 years old and it’s literally like a switch flipped in my back. I said, ‘You know what? Life is too short.’ I had been through so much. I’ve seen everything you can imagine about whatever happened to Russia and Ukraine right now. I have seen this experience firsthand.

“I said, ‘We’re in Belgium, I’m going to live my life to the fullest, I’m going to be happy and I’m going to make it.'”

Arriving in Belgium was the first time he had landed in a new country without speaking a word of their language, although it was repeated years later when he moved to London.

“I left Armenia when I was 12, 13; We just locked the door as usual and left. I remember we got train after train, we stayed with my mother’s friend, then with her sister in Moscow, then it went and went until we got to Belgium where my father’s brother was.”

The TV judge had ambitions to become a dancer, but first trained as a hairdresser because dancing was not considered a profession. However, the 19-year-old was discovered on a stage in a nightclub in Antwerp and hired as a stage dancer.

“Then I started doing TV shows in Belgium. I was just very quick at learning routines, I had no training.”

Still waiting for a Belgian passport, he couldn’t cross the border, but when it finally got through in 1998 he began dancing across Europe before landing in London in February 2000.

“When I got there I couldn’t speak English, it was a mess.”

However, after excelling in auditions, he was cast as a backup dancer on the TV show. stars in her eyes, before appearing alongside Kylie Minogue and the Spice Girls over the next decade. He also worked with Beyonce in the UK.

“I did some little things with Miss B, I did a private party and when Americans come to Britain they always need extra dancers, so I was one of the boys,” he said.

“She’s the most professional person on earth, she takes a step taller than the dancers in rehearsal. It was just surreal working with Beyonce.

“I was never starry because it was work for me. i loved life Meeting all these celebrities, they are people like us.”

He remembers dancing the first time Be sure to come dance with Emma Bunton when she performed a set on the show in 2004, and later spoke to judge Bruno Tonioli about working on the program.

“I thought, ‘Who’s going to see the ballroom?’ Who would have thought it would be a phenomenal show around the world? Two years later I met Bruno again and I said, ‘My God, you have a great career.’ He said, “Honey, that’s what you want in life, once you’ve made it… just go and be fabulous.”

“Who would have thought years later that I would be sitting in this chair. I wanted to do something like this, but I never thought I’d be on national television in an English-speaking country.”

He was “absolutely stunned” by the four finalists, former jockey Nina Carberry, rugby star Jordan Conroy, singer-songwriter Erica Cody and Paralympic swimmer Ellen Keane. “I know dancers who can’t do some of the lifts or some of the steps that these four finalists did,” Arthur said.

Nobody is more excited than his husband Brian. They first met at a club in Soho, London on December 27, 2002 before finally tying the knot in 2015.

“When I got the job he jumped because he sees me working so hard my whole life. He is the biggest support for me.”

Almost 30 years after leaving his childhood home in Armenia, he calls the Kildare estate he shares with his TV star husband his home.

“This is where we belong. Brian has his family here and my family can always come. It just feels right.”

Dancing with the Stars airs tonight at 6.30pm on RTÉ One

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/this-is-where-we-belong-it-just-feels-right-dwts-judge-gourounlian-at-home-after-incredible-journey-as-a-refugee-41491483.html Dancing with the Stars judge Arthur Gourounlian: “This is where we belong, it just feels right” – DWTS judge Gourounlian “at home” after an incredible journey as a refugee

Fry Electronics Team

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