The generous muse of folk dance

"There are leaps and jumps that end on the knees and dances with swords, shields and daggers, with sparks in the air."

 (photo credit: GEORGIAN EMBASSY)
(photo credit: GEORGIAN EMBASSY)
In recent years, more and more contemporary choreographers are broaching the issue of folk dance and its significance. From Christian Rizzo to Simon Meyer to Ohad Naharin, artists from around the world have presented their interpretation of their own nation’s traditional dances in Israel. Being a country with strong roots in folk, Israel provides an audience that can connect to these forms and appreciate their revivals.
In the eyes of Nino Sukhishvili, artistic director of the Georgian National Ballet, Georgia was particularly blessed with folk inspiration.
“The dance muse was particularly generous to the Georgian people,” explains Sukhishvili. “[Our folk dance] is noted for its rare diversity and richness of dance movements. The Georgian dance history goes back as many centuries as these ancient Caucasian people keep in their collective memory. For its part, the Georgian dance clearly reflects the national character, way of thinking – old and, at the same time, tough historical background of the people living on the border of Europe and Asia. Georgian dance is difficult to perform. Male dancers walk on their toes in their leather boots. There are leaps and jumps that end on the knees and dances with swords, shields and daggers, with sparks in the air.”
For Sukhishvili and her brother Ilia, who are the third generation of directors of the company, interpreting and updating folk dance is an everyday task. Their grandparents established the company to preserve and celebrate the fibers of Georgian dance and music. As years went on and performance rosters remained full, the company added dancers and staff. Sukhishvili and her brother were born into the reality of a thriving family business, one it was clear that they would eventually take over.
“Being the third generation to oversee the troupe is a tremendous responsibility for me and my brother. We must do the best we can to ensure that the troupe continues to perform at the highest level and provides the quality performance our spectators expect from us. My job is a great responsibility for me, but it’s also a source of great happiness. I’m proud of the role my family has played in preserving this international treasure,” she says.
With the rapidly changing world, Sukhishvili and her brother are constantly aware of the need to keep things fresh and engage new audiences.
“We always try to renew the performance programs because we think that it’s very important to modernize the dances. We are always searching for creative ideas, and we constantly witness the evolution of dances. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes just a couple of days. But we never change the whole program because we have the dances that are already regarded as a treasure of our country and our company,” she says.
For the past several years, the Georgian National Ballet has been a staple on the annual Israeli dance calendar. Every time the company arrives, trailing trunks of costumes and truckloads of sets in its wake, a new interpretation of the classic repertoire is presented.
“Staying true to folk dance traditional roots while incorporating new moves and dances has to be the toughest challenge. It’s very difficult to be true to the folk roots of our dance and create something new. Our heritage is what has brought us to today, and we must honor that tradition as a basis for the new type of choreography. In our dance company, folk and traditional dance have evolved over the years, and a new vision and a new version of the dance was born. It was then that contemporary movements reminiscent of ballet were added to the traditional presentation, making folk dancing more spectacular and more exciting,” she adds.
For this year’s tour in Israel, which will span one week and make stops in five cities, the company has put together a program that seamlessly combines new and old.
“We performed new compositions in Georgia for the first time, and it had great success. The first foreign country where we will perform these dances will be Israel,” says Sukhishvili.
The Georgian National Ballet will perform on November 4 at the Jerusalem International Convention Center; November 5 & 6 at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv; November 7 at the Ashdod Performing Arts Center; November 8 at the Beersheba Performing Arts Center; and November 9 at the North Theater in Kiryat Haim. For more information, visit or