Kosta Karakashyan is a Bulgarian-Armenian director, producer, choreographer, and writer exploring empathy and emotion through motion.

He has built a prolific body of work, moving through disciplines including film, music videos, commercials, choreography, installations, theatre and immersive performances produced alongside his production company Studio Karakashyan and dance company Karakashyan & Artists.

His work has been described as “an important voice for LGBTQ+ struggles in Chechnya and elsewhere” by The Columbia Spectator and has been featured by NOWNESS, The New Yorker, The Guardian and ELLE across the USA, Canada, Germany, Norway, Egypt, Vietnam and Japan. He brings visceral physical expression and strong storytelling to his projects, which often tackle social topics such as the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Eastern Europe, mental health, and the climate crisis.

He is a graduate of Columbia University in New York (BA in Dance) and the Global Campus of Human Rights (European Master’s) in Venice, Italy, which has informed his style of work – inquisitive and based on compassion, social justice, and innovation. In 2023, was elected as one of two Bulgarian Youth Delegates to the UN for the 2023-2024 mandate, representing the voice of Bulgarian youth on the highest international level and advocating for access to culture and education. 

Beginning his artistic career as a professional dancer, Kosta started training in ballroom dance at age five before winning two Bulgarian National Ballroom Champion titles, dancing on international stages across Canada, Germany, Norway, Egypt, Vietnam and Japan, and becoming the youngest professional dancer and choreographer on Dancing with the Stars Vietnam at 18 years old. 

His films include a real boy (NOWNESS Picks), In Her Skin (Beyond The Short), Surrender (Sofia International Film Fest, Lower East Side Film Festival), Supersexual (Nouvelle Bug), Glance from the Edge (Dance Filmmaking Premiere) and WAITING FOR COLOR. He is an alumnus of Midpoint Intensive Queer, Talents and Short Film Market Torino, NOWNESS x Cinedans Pitch, ShorTS Development & Pitching Training, and Film+ Development Lab. As a commercial director, his recent clients include H&M, Calvin Klein, ELLE, iYura, Bellissimo Clinic, Studio Zard, Florsheim and SRB Paris.

In 2019, his award-winning documentary dance film WAITING FOR COLOR about the LGBTQ+ persecution in Chechnya, gained international attention after its release in collaboration with Single Step Foundation and was awarded the Prix Lumière at Cinédanse Festival Ottawa 2019 and Best Student Film at IMZ + dancescreen 2019. WAITING FOR COLOR has been selected at over 30 festivals worldwide and featured by The Guardian, ELLE, Bloomberg, them, GLAAD, INTO, Radio Free Europe and Marquee TV. The Guardian wrote: “Karakashyan moves with hard jolts and swift stealth, a body of expression, skill and power; a body standing its ground and not about to give up.” 

As a choreographer and movement director in the commercial industry, Kosta has collaborated with music artists such as Sigala, MNEK, Rita Ora, Sherihan and Sean Lionadh and directors Sophia Ray, Fred Rowson, Jens Gehlhaar, Nono Ayuso and Rodrigo Inada, Will Hopper, Manu Cossu, Jonathan Alric (The Blaze), Alaska, Jasmine Loignon, That Jam, Anna Himma, Mohamed Shaker Khodeir, Kevork Aslanyan and Killian Lassablière, boasting choreography and movement direction for music videos, commercials, fashion projects, short and feature films, TV and live performances, most recently in the international documentary film Kukeri, premiered by The New Yorker. He has choreographed for commercial clients such as Calvin Klein, Old Spice, Disneyland, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Škoda, Asda, H&M, Kohler, Remarkable, Royal Match, Method, EE, Superbet and Fashion Days. On TV, his choreography has been presented by Dancing with the Stars Vietnam, Bulgaria’s Got Talent and The Nikolaos Tsitiridis Show. Shots.net wrote: “the smart choreography from Kosta Karakashyan of key moments elevates cliché into something quite artful”.

As the founder and artistic director of multidisciplinary dance company Karakashyan & Artists, he is known as a poetic storyteller of reality. In a world where people often feel like spectators of their own lives, the company creates unique large-scale immersive productions which resonate viscerally with audience members and place them at the center of the work. Informed by a desire to explore the ways stories are told and experienced, Karakashyan & Artists embraces the beauty of the intimate, the visceral, and the subversive. The company’s work is set in kitchens, landfills, public spaces, warehouses, beaches, toilets, caves, runways, and film sets, incorporating dance, theatre, film, design, and literature. The company’s immersive works KITCHEN and Tales from the Cosmos incorporate performance and gastronomy to offer the audience a transformative culinary and visceral experience. In 2022, Kosta collaborated with Goethe-Institut, Greenpeace – Bulgaria and The Biennial of Humour and Satire in Gabrovo to create The Last Sunset, an immersive performance highlighting the negative effects of fossil fuels on our health through a dystopian journey through the Regional Landfill for Non-Hazardous Waste in Gabrovo.

As a choreographer for the stage, Kosta has created works for his own dance company Karakashyan & Artists and other companies including Columbia Ballet Collaborative (New York) and Ballet Arabesque (Bulgaria). His work has been presented by Goethe-Institut, Greenpeace – Bulgaria, DNK – space for contemporary dance, CineLibri International Book and Movie Festival, The Gabrovo Biennial of Humor and Satire, the Regional Landfill for Nonhazardous Waste – Gabrovo, HRC Culinary Academy, Single Step Foundation, Fashion Days, KO-OP – Sofia, TaM – Veliko Tarnovo, and the Barnard College Movement Lab. His dance film Glance from the Edge was nominated for Best Choreography at the Impulse Dance Awards in 2022, and in 2023, he received the Sofia Municipality Award for co-authoring the Focus Screen Dance educational program with Stephanie Handjiiska and Silvia Cherneva. 

As an artist working in the field of dance, Kosta is a passionate advocate of the physical, mental, and social benefits dance can bring into our lives, elaborating these concepts in his TedX speech “Connecting through dance“. In addition to directing, Kosta teaches improvisation, contemporary technique, camera performance, and dance film workshops around Europe. Kosta has also served as Director of Innovation & Marketing on the board of HLAB, an international summer school in Japan.

He is also a contributing writer to various publications, writing essays and dance criticism for Byline, Springback Magazine, Dance Magazine, DanceTabs, Fjord Review, lowercase magazine, and BOYSCOUT. In 2019, he was selected as one of the emerging dance writers by the Aerowaves Springback Academy.

For his work as an LGBTQ+ artist and activist, Kosta has been profiled by Grindr’s INTO and The New East is Queer and has received the Edgar Richards Scholarship from the Maranatha Ministry at Riverside Church and the Tuk-Tam Foundation Scholarship to pursue a Master’s in Human Rights and Democratization. He was part of David France’s BAFTA-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary feature film Welcome to Chechnya as a face double protecting the anonymity of the real subjects of the film. He was also part of activist Remy Bonny’s Top 10 LGBTI Individuals of 2019 list and has presented his activism work at UPenn’s Perry World House. He is the creator and founding editor-in-chief of Out.bg, a Bulgarian LGBTQ+ community platform, featured on BBC World Service OS and The New East is Queer. In 2022, he received one of the Columbia Lion’s Pride honors for outstanding social work by Columbia University alumni. He hosts the podcast Fabulously Polite with Simeon Todorov, a podcast with no labels covering culture, identity and LGBTQ+ news from the Balkans.