By ARDEN BASTIA Now 15 years old Francesca Beagan started dancing at Distinctive Dance when she was just 19 months, and has no plans to stop. The dancer had a challenging start to her life. When she was born, she was diagnosed with a lung condition that
Now 15 years old Francesca Beagan started dancing at Distinctive Dance when she was just 19 months, and has no plans to stop.
The dancer had a challenging start to her life. When she was born, she was diagnosed with a lung condition that almost took her life, twice.
“She has one full lung, but her left one is the size of someone’s thumb,” said Bea Beagan, Francesca’s mother. “So we put her in dance because it was supposed to help with her breathing, and now here she is. She just took to it and loved it.”
Last Thursday, the dancer was given the opportunity to work with professional dancer Gevorg “Gev” Manoukian.
Manoukin originally hails from Kazakhstan, where he began his dance career at the age of 16.
“I was working for a dance competition, West Coast Dance Explosion, and Stacy brought her kids there to compete and take classes,” Manoukian explained in an interview Friday. “And I was actually judging at this one. And [Francesca] did a duet and she had this smile the whole time, it was just so genuine.”
Manoukian was so moved by Francesca’s love of dance that he approached Stacy Capone, owner of Distinctive Dance, after the competition.
“I think I first asked [Stacy] to tell me the story, because I feel like [Francesca] had something to say,” he said.
Manoukian choreographed a solo for Francesca that she’ll perform at the studio’s showcase and future competitions.
“This is the first time that anyone outside the studio has ever choreographed,” said Capone, who traditionally choreographs dancers’ solos and duets.
Manoukian believes in the storytelling power of dance, and let that inspire Francesca’s solo.
Francesca explained the concept of her solo, set to Hold on Forever, a song by Rob Thomas. “When I was really little, maybe like six, my mom and I were listening to this song in the car. And we were just hearing the lyrics and were like, oh my gosh this is our song. It just stuck, and whenever it comes on we always dance in the car. So doing this as a solo is so amazing and it’s really special to me.”
Francesca explained that the song choice was a complete coincidence. She and Capone gave Manoukian a list of songs to choose from, and he happened to select Hold on Forever.
“I listened to the songs she sent me and as soon as I heard that song, right away I pictured her again on stage with that smile,” said Manoukian. “It just radiates. I can feel her energy, it made me feel emotional when I was judging and that’s really big.”
“Sometimes people tend to think, with dancing, you have to be perfect and have perfect technique,” said Manoukian. “To me, dance is never about that. “Sometimes, just standing on stage and not moving can be more powerful than doing 14 pirouettes.”
For Francesca’s grandmother, Marcia Beagan, it’s no surprise that Manoukian spotted the dancer.
“I’m blown away by her dancing,” she said Wednesday. “Her dancing brings happy tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. I can see the changes and the growth in her the self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Manoukian, in his nearly two decades of dance experience, knows what it takes to be a successful dancer.
He was part of the first breakdancing crew in Kazakhstan before moving to the United States when he was just 17. Settling in Salt Lake City, Utah, Manoukian kept dancing, where he joined a studio breakdancing crew. “The guy who was teaching actually made us take ballet,” he said, laughing and miming ballet moves. “Usually the breakdancers are a hardcore group, and a lot of the times the mentality is breakdancing is everything and the other dance styles don’t even matter or you don’t even want to try.”
From there, Manoukian began making a name for himself in the entertainment world by first scoring a role in High School Musical, which was filmed in UT. He auditioned and was selected for the television shows So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. Manoukian has also appeared on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. His resume also includes stage performances with LeAnn Rimes and P!nk, plus music video performances for Ludicrous and Chaka Khan.
“It’s all about the freedom,” said Manoukian when asked why he loves dance so much. “I never wanted to pursue dance. I never thought it would be my career; it was never on the radar even up to when I was 20. It was just going to be fun. But for me, I also used it as therapy.”
“I am so proud of her,” said Bea. “I think everyone needs their five minutes of applause and she’s definitely getting it. She normally stands in the background and is very quiet, doesn’t say much and is very, very shy. But for her to be called out like this is absolutely amazing.”
Francesca is excited to be back in the studio, dancing among her friends, as classes took place remotely or in Capone’s front yard during the pandemic. “To me, dance is all about emotion and passion,” said Francesca. “It’s about working with others.”
Francesca calls working with Manoukian “an honor.”
“I feel really special. It’s really exciting,” she said. “I feel like I’ll always keep dancing. And I want my kids to dance too.”