Georgian National Ballet a family dance with history

Thu Feb 9, 2012 11:59am EST
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By Margarita Antidze

TBILISI (Reuters) - It has survived communist oppression, the Cold War, the break-up of the Soviet Union and counted Josef Stalin and Elvis Presley among its admirers, but at its heart the Georgian National Ballet has always been a bit of a family business.

Founded nearly 70 years ago by the husband and wife team of Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili and initially named the Georgian State Dance Company, the troupe has travelled from the back offices of suspicious state and party officials in 1945 to some of the greatest stages in the world.

The combination of lively music, shows of strength, tornado-fast spins, jumps, swords, shields and daggers for male dancers, matched with the gliding and elegant movements of female performers in vibrantly colored costumes make Georgian dance a dazzling spectacle for audiences.

"I would dare to say that other national dance groups in the world don't present such diversity on the stage," said Iliko Sukhishvili Jr., the founder's grandson and current chief choreographer of the troupe.

Georgian dance history goes back many centuries and reflects the national character and ancient history of Georgia, a tiny Caucasus country sandwiched between Russia and Turkey.

One of the oldest Christian nations in the world has always suffered at the hands of invaders, dominated by Arabs, Persians, Turks and of course latterly Russians.

The uneasy historical background of the country has always been reflected in the Georgian dance, first choreographed by the original husband and wife team of Sukhishvili and Ramishvili.

Each dance has a different costume originating from the different regions of a country whose mountainous landscape tumbles down onto the shores of the Black Sea.   Continued...