(photo credit: LADO VACHNADZE)
Nina Ananiashvili is one of the better traveled people on the planet. Although it is her career that has taken her around the world countless times over, the renowned Georgian ballerina attributes her love of jet-setting to her father.
“My father was a geologist, and he took us everywhere,” she says.
Of course, nearly four decades on stage as one of the most cherished ballerinas of all time have contributed to Ananiashvili’s inclination for sightseeing. This month, she will bring her company, the State Ballet of Georgia, to Israel for the first time, marking off a new destination on her travel log.
The State Ballet of Georgia is celebrating its 176th season. For the majority of the company’s existence, the dancers devoted themselves to preserving the rich tradition of Georgian dance. In 2004, when Ananiashvili took over the reins, she brought with her the influences of Europe and North America, updating the repertoire and the working order of the company. Today, the 26 dancers of the ballet company are highly diverse and capable of taking on a wide range of choreography, from the most classical ballets to cutting-edge contemporary and neoclassical works.
Ananiashvili’s romance with ballet began at a young age. Her parents sought a physical pursuit to improve their four-year-old’s health and eventually found themselves in an ice skating class. Ananiashvili took to the ice immediately and rose to the ranks of the local skaters quickly. When she was 10, a ballet teacher saw her skate and suggested that she perform a frozen version of “The Dying Swan.” Then the teacher took her to the theater, where she presented the feathered costume of Odile to the young student, thus plunging her into the ballet world.
Ananiashvili’s career took her first into the ranks of the famed Bolshoi Theater, then to perform as a guest with the Alberta Ballet in Canada, and later as the first Soviet ballerina to guest with the New York City Ballet. She spent 16 years as a soloist with the American Ballet Theater.
“I’ve danced more than 110 ballets. Into each ballet I put my soul. Some feel like my children because I put so much energy into preparing my roles,” she says.
But one ballet stands out, the opus that has marked all of Ananiashvili’s major career moments.
“I started my career with Swan Lake. It was the first ballet I performed at the Bolshoi, and I started my time with the American Ballet Theater with it. Sixteen years later, I closed my tenure there with Swan Lake. I just did Swan Lake this year. I’ve spent more than 35 years on stage doing this performance, and I enjoy it every time,” she says.
In Israel, Ananiashvili will perform “The Dying Swan” variation from Swan Lake. The program will also include Petite Ceremony by Medhi Walerski, danced to music by Mozart; Sagalobeli by Yuri Possokhov; Six Dances by Jiri Kylian, danced to Mozart; and Serenade by ballet legend George Balanchine.
The choice to bring this repertoire was made with great consideration of the local audience. Ananiashvili wanted to be sure that the company made a proper first impression, so she and local producers handpicked ballets that would show range and dynamics.
“Of course, we choose the repertoire together with the producers. I propose what we are thinking, they say what they want, and we have a discussion after, where we come up with the results,” Ananiashvili explains.
Alongside her responsibilities as the artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia, Ananiashvili is also a wife, mother and owner of a burgeoning wine business. Nina Ananiashvili & Wine Art spans 22 acres of land and boasts five rare Georgian vintages.
“I’m proud to do everything because it’s really not easy. I’m happy because I’ve found people who I trust and who help me, and that is very rare,” she says.The State Ballet of Georgia will perform on February 20 at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center (www.mishkan7.co.il); February 21 to 24 at the Herzliya Performing Arts Center (www.hoh-herzliya.co.il); February 26 at the Jerusalem Theatre (www.jerusalemtheatre.co.il); and February 27 at the Haifa Auditorium (www.ethos.co.il).