(photo credit: Anna Bakarsakia)
In describing folk dance, Wikipedia writes as follows: “Folk dance describes dances that share some or all of the following attributes: 1. They are dances performed at social functions by people with no professional training, 2. They are not designed for public performance or the stage, 3. Their execution is dominated by an inherited tradition rather than by innovation."
The Georgian National Ballet is one of the most renowned folklore groups in the world. However, they do not fit any of the three aforementioned criteria. For one, the 70 plus dancers who make up the cast of GNB are trained at the highest professional level. Secondly, the company’s works have been presented on stages in 88 countries to over fifty million viewers. And finally, the artistic leadership of GNB has made it its business to reinvigorate and inspire Georgia’s national treasure, dance, with each twirl and every leap.
Next week, Georgian National Ballet will perform three shows in Israel. The massive troupe will trek from Tel Aviv to Caesarea and, finally, to Haifa. This tour is part of the 65th anniversary of the company’s existence and is an homage to founding choreographers Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili.
GNB has grown immensely in both size and scope since its inception in 1945. In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, current director Nino Sukhishvili explained: “Georgian dance has undergone unprecedented evolution and gained international acclaim over the past 65 years. The country treasured these two great maestros and welcomed their emergence on the horizon of Georgian cultural life.”
While neither of the two is alive to celebrate this landmark, Sukhishvili’s grandchildren are thrilled to lead the best of Georgia to Israel.
Before taking up the reins as the director of the company, the third-generation Sukhishvili was a dancer in the troupe for many years. She described her time under the limelight with excitement and nostalgia. “For me it was the like touching history,” she said. “Georgian dance history goes back many centuries. For its part, Georgian dance clearly reflects the national character and way of thinking as well as the ancient and rough historical background of the Georgian people.”
IN SUKHISHVILI’S eyes, Georgian National Ballet is all about finding a balance between old and new. “We believe that a dance troupe is not a museum. It is a living body, which keeps changing and developing,” Sukhishvili said.
This is no small feat for a troupe dedicated to folk dance, which, as we’ve discovered, is by definition meant to preserve, not recreate. “It is very difficult to be true to the folk roots of our dance and create something new. Our heritage is what has brought us this far, and we must honor that tradition as a foundation for a new type of dance,” she explained. “We must do everything we can to ensure that the troupe continues to perform at the highest level and delivers the quality performance our audience expects from us. It is a great responsibility for me, but it’s also a source of great happiness.”
While she recognizes that she has large boots to fill, Sukhishvili was
keen to share some of the small pleasures she finds in her job. “When
male dancers walk on their toes in leather boots, each boot must fit
the dancer like a glove,” she said. “One dance leads directly into the
next and there is a different costume for each dance. There are leaps
and jumps that end on the knees, and dances with swords, shields and
daggers that send sparks into the air.”
To see a performance of Sukhishvili and Ramishvili’s choreography is to
experience a unique thrill. Weaving together elements of traditional
Georgian dance, stage combat and exuberant live music, GNB’s works are
grandiose in a way that few pieces succeed in being. When asked to
describe the troupe’s presence on stage, Sukhishvili put it simply,
“Power, energy, fire.” Georgian National Ballet performances
will take place in Tel Aviv on June 9, in Caesarea on June 10 and in
Haifa on June 12. For tickets, visit www.kupatcartisim.co.il.