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Some Russian Ballet Faces -- The State Ballet of Georgia 


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Some former members of the Mariinsky and Bolshoi are now active with The State Ballet of Georgia, Nina Ananiashvili (formerly Bolshoi, etc), Artistic Director.

Currently associated with the company are Xander Parish (ex-Mariinsky and RB), Laura Fernandez-Gromova (ex Stanislavsky, PoluninInk, and Mariinsky), Oscar Frame (ex-Bolshoi and Astrakhan), Gavriel Heine (former Mariinsky conductor) and others. 

"Our next performance - "Romeo and Juliet" will be held on June 11,12,15 at 19.00.
The leading roles: 11.06 - Nino Samadashvili and Oscar Frame; 12.06 - World Ballet star Xander Parish and Laura Fernandez: 15.06 - Ekaterine Surmava and Andrii Havryliuk. Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre Orchestra will be conducted by guest Conductor Gavriel Heine (USA)."

https://tkt.ge/show/10451/romeo-da-julieta

Also Xander, Laura, Oscar, Anastasia Demidova (ex-Mariinsky), choreographer Ilia Jivoy (ex-Mariinsky) and his wife, Sophia Vartanyan (costumes) are preparing a new work.

A brief video clip of Xander Parish and Laura Fernandez Gromova rehearsing Romeo and Juliet in Tbilisi. 
https://www.instagram.com/tv/CeO6KuGIc2m/?igshid=NmZiMzY2Mjc=   

(Thanks to FionaE at BalletcoForum for all the above)

The company is also scheduled to be at the at the George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, April, 2023. This might be part of a larger tour of the US.(Thanks to Jeannette at BalletcoForum).

https://cfa.calendar.gmu.edu/state-ballet-of-georgia/


 

Edited by Buddy
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Ananiashvili is Georgian, Parish and Frame are British, Fernandez is Swiss and Heine is American. To lump them all together as somehow representing "Russian" ballet is offensive, especially considering how much Georgian territory is currently occupied by Russia. Georgia has a very old and distinct dancing tradition, and ballerinas like Samadashvili and Surmava don't move like Russian-trained dancers. Their quality is stronger, faster, direct, almost to the point of fierceness, unsentimental and not at all decorative.

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Americans probably wouldn't enjoy being referred to as "colonials," as in the old days. I doubt the State Ballet of Georgia would appreciate being seen as "substitute Russians." It's not a huge company, but it deserves to be perceived on its own merits, especially since Ananiashvili has leveraged her extensive professional contacts in the West, to build a wide-ranging repertoire.

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43 minutes ago, volcanohunter said:

Americans probably wouldn't enjoy being referred to as "colonials," as in the old days. I doubt the State Ballet of Georgia would appreciate being seen as "substitute Russians." It's not a huge company, but it deserves to be perceived on its own merits, especially since Ananiashvili has leveraged her extensive professional contacts in the West, to build a wide-ranging repertoire.

You make a good point here, Volcanohunter. I guess that I'm just concentrating on one aspect of the situation because of today's world conditions.

Edited by Buddy
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13 hours ago, Buddy said:

You make a good point here, Volcanohunter. I guess that I'm just concentrating on one aspect of the situation because of today's world conditions.

 

Me too, Buddy. I've found the Georgian troupe to adhere primarily to the classic Vaganova style...even when the USA's own Brooklyn Mack (a Kirov Acad of DC grad, by the way) guest-starred in their Don Q a few years back. The Vaganova language and style seems to cross all boundaries, even when certain dancers, like their ex-prima, Lali Kandelaki, may be more flamboyant than others.

Thanks too, Buddy, for the heads-up on the company's upcoming visit to the DC area. Quite convenient for me! I checked the George Mason arts-series website and the Georgian troupe is scheduled to dance a mixed bill - "Mostly B" - that includes Balanchine's Serenade, among others.

Calendar | Center for the Arts (gmu.edu)  - scroll down to April 15

Next spring should see a number of visits by companies 'in the Russian style but not-quite-Russia'; for ex, I read elsewhere that the Ukrainian National Ballet (the big one based in Kyiv) is planning to perform in the NYC area in early Jan 2023. So we in North America can have our fill of Not-Quite-Russian ballet soon. No disrespect intended but spotlighting ex-USSR-territory ballet companies seems to be good marketing. These are, for the most part, very fine companies, with interesting repertoires.

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On 6/3/2022 at 7:39 AM, Roberta said:

...Thanks too, Buddy, for the heads-up on the company's upcoming visit to the DC area. Quite convenient for me! I checked the George Mason arts-series website and the Georgian troupe is scheduled to dance a mixed bill - "Mostly B" - that includes Balanchine's Serenade, among others.

Calendar | Center for the Arts (gmu.edu)  - scroll down to April 15...

 

Thanks for the GMU Georgia performance heads-up.  Fine mixed bill: Serenade – Balanchine
Concerto Barocco  Balanchine, Sagalobeli – Possokhov. 

Edited by maps
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4 hours ago, Roberta said:

The Vaganova language and style seems to cross all boundaries, even when certain dancers, like their ex-prima, Lali Kandelaki, may be more flamboyant than others.

 

This seems like a good and healthy perception, Roberta, that I too was thinking about. Art and creativity do cross all sorts of boundaries with all sorts of interconnections and this can bring folks everywhere together in a good and healthy way. 

Volcanohunter seems quite right in noting that one group might not want to be seen as a stand-in for another, but there also seems to be nothing wrong with being part of a broader identity if it adds to the quality and value of that group.  

If The State Ballet of Georgia does tour other parts of the US I would look forward to seeing it. And I also greatly look forward to when everyone can once again see all the world's finest companies. 


 

Edited by Buddy
typo correction
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I hope the Kennedy Center and other presenters use the opportunity to discover that the world's finest ballet does not consist of hoary Soviet-era productions from St. Petersburg, but rather the Royal Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, the National Ballet of Japan, the Staatsballett Berlin, the Dutch National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, the Stuttgart Ballet, the Hamburg Ballet, the Dresden Semperoper Ballet and many others, which are actually moving the art form forward.

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I think about this one a lot as well, Volcanohunter.

Are the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi stuck back in time ?  Yet, somehow, being as great as they are, for me, it doesn't really seem to matter. They set a standard of excellence in performance ability. Mozart's creativity is definitely frozen in time, but....

We aren't talking about the exact same thing, I realise, but these are some of my feelings about 'moving forward.'

Edited by Buddy
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On 6/3/2022 at 10:07 AM, maps said:

Thanks for the GMU Georgia performance heads-up.  Fine mixed bill: Serenade – Balanchine
Concerto Barocco  Balanchine, Sagalobeli – Possokhov. 

The current listing has Mozartiana rather than Concerto Barocco.

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This same program hit the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts at Lehman College in the (very) North Bronx.

The company performed the same program as GMU.  No program, paper or digital, was provided by the company or the venue.  I had trouble finding a website for the company - most online searches reverted to Nina Ananiashvili's personal website.  I cannot identify any of the dancers - and almost all of them were very good and showed excellent training.  The music was pre-recorded.  The hall was less than half-filled and the applause for the Balanchine works was less than energetic despite a well-danced performance.  The applause at the end was enthusiastic.

Serenade – George Balanchine
The company is full of willowy, long-limbed women with graceful arms and high extensions.   The men (fewer in number on this tour) are all tall, dark and handsome with slightly angular exotic features and black hair.  The neo-Romantic style of this early Balanchine ballet is well-suited to the company. 

Concerto Barocco – George Balanchine
Here one sensed that a more American, faster, sharper style was needed - the arms were very soft and Romantic and the movements lacked dash and attack.  It seemed a little slow lacking lightness.  Sharpness was needed and a little more speed.  The company is better at adagio.  No one danced badly and it was enjoyable but stick with NYCB for this one.

Sagalobeli – Yuri Possokhov
The music is Georgian folk music.  Some vocals, lots of drums.  The men wear very tight pants and sleeveless vests.  The women have long skirts and sort of harem girl tops.  There is pointe work for the women, the men (strong) more folk oriented.  The work started unimpressively but the dances went from all-male ensemble work to all-female ensemble work to interesting male-male and male-female pas de deux's.  It ended with an exuberant dance for the whole company, male and female.  It built up momentum and some of the choreography was good.  The dancers put it over with a will.  Ultimately I enjoyed it though I am not sure I want to see it again.

The choice of Balanchine - okay for other regional cities on the 6 stop American tour - was kind of bringing coals to Newcastle.

The company is well-trained and highly professional.

I wouldn't mind regular visits if they could bring something other than Balanchine to New York.  I know the company has a full-length "Laurencia" which is a rarity and I think could be a success.  The story of an innocent girl who is raped (or nearly raped) by the corrupt General and incites the Spanish villagers to rebellion has a #MeToo female empowerment theme that would work well in the current cultural environment.

The abrupt stoppage of Bolshoi and Maryinsky touring after the invasion of Ukraine has left many balletomanes starved for traditional Russian Classical Ballet.  The Georgian and Ukrainian companies with their Russian dance heritage and tradition could fill the gap beautifully.  I wouldn't mind if these companies toured the West with opulently mounted Russian classics.

Nina Ananiashvili took the final group curtain call with the company and got a standing ovation.

https://detroitopera.org/season-schedule/the-state-ballet-of-georgia/

Edited by FauxPas
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On 4/17/2023 at 2:35 PM, FauxPas said:

I wouldn't mind regular visits if they could bring something other than Balanchine to New York.  I know the company has a full-length "Laurencia" which is a rarity and I think could be a success.  The story of an innocent girl who is raped (or nearly raped) by the corrupt General and incites the Spanish villagers to rebellion has a #MeToo female empowerment theme that would work well in the current cultural environment.

The abrupt stoppage of Bolshoi and Maryinsky touring after the invasion of Ukraine has left many balletomanes starved for traditional Russian Classical Ballet.  The Georgian and Ukrainian companies with their Russian dance heritage and tradition could fill the gap beautifully.  I wouldn't mind if these companies toured the West with opulently mounted Russian classics.

I second this. We don't need foreign companies to present the same works that our local companies present, unless they have a unique take (I have the same attitude about touring symphonies playing the standards, e.g., Dvorak's 9th [New World] Symphony, rather than perhaps something from their own region that North Americans might not be very familiar with). But perhaps they feel that they will get a bigger audience if they perform something that everyone is familiar with.

I thoroughly enjoyed Sagalobeli and wouldn't mind seeing it again. I thought that it was pretty original.

At GMU, they danced Mozartiana rather than Concerto Barocco. The performance also had a disappointingly small audience - I don't think that people from DC or Maryland have much interest in driving to GMU, though it isn't all that hard to get to (and parking is free!).

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49 minutes ago, YouOverThere said:

We don't need foreign companies to present the same works that our local companies present, unless they have a unique take

Balanchine's origins were Georgian. That is the company's unique take on his works.

Touring a story ballet with full sets is expensive and a logistical challenge, and there is no guarantee that American audiences would come to see, say, Gorda if the company were to bring it.

On 4/17/2023 at 12:35 PM, FauxPas said:

The Georgian and Ukrainian companies with their Russian dance heritage and tradition could fill the gap beautifully.  I wouldn't mind if these companies toured the West with opulently mounted Russian classics.

I think, perhaps, Americans don't understand how offensive this attitude of "import substitution" is to Georgians and Ukrainians, considering that Russian troops are occupying substantial areas of their countries.

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15 hours ago, volcanohunter said:

I think, perhaps, Americans don't understand how offensive this attitude of "import substitution" is to Georgians and Ukrainians, considering that Russian troops are occupying substantial areas of their countries.

The classical ballet tradition in Eastern European former Soviet satellite countries like Ukraine, Georgia, etc. comes from Moscow and St. Petersburg.  The Ukrainians and Georgians know this - it is an imported style.  Their native dance style is traditional folk dancing which is more popular.  All of these dancers in the Georgian and Ukrainian companies are trained in the Vaganova school from Russia often by imported dancers from Russian companies - like currently Nina Ananiashvili.

Given that millions of people love Russian ballet, yes I think these companies can substitute for the tours of the Maryinsky and Bolshoi companies while presenting their own national style with integrity - not just as a "substitute".  

George Balanchine (born Balanchivadze) was born and raised in St. Petersburg.  His whole training was at the Russian Imperial Ballet.  There is very little Georgian cultural influence in his choreography from what I can see (maybe "Firebird"??).   There is a ton of Mariinsky Russian influence in his ballets - especially pieces like "Diamonds" and "Ballet Imperial" and "Symphony in C".   Therefore, what the Georgian ballet dancers bring to Balanchine is what they have learned from their Vaganova classical Russian ballet derived training.  I saw nothing Georgian or anything other than Russian classical in their approach to "Serenade" (to its benefit) or to "Concerto Barocco" (to its detriment).  

I feel that these Western tours by the Ukrainian and Georgian ballet companies also send a message about the humanity and innate gifts and beauties of these people and their right to freedom.  It also fills a need to see Eastern European Russian style classical dancing.

This is the digital program for the GMU show which would identify some of the dancers who were anonymous this past Sunday:

https://dpb-web.instantencore.com/program/42890/state-ballet-of-georgia-b/page/60912/home?cid=5206347

 

Edited by FauxPas
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But their folk dances demonstrate that Georgians and Ukrainians didn't need Russians to teach them how to dance. They are among the among the most "dancing" nations in the world. And I would argue that there's a huge difference between the method Balanchine learned while training and what Vaganova unleashed on Soviet ballet.

You may remember that a number of years ago Peter Martin's invited one of the major Georgian folkloric ensembles (and honestly, I can no longer recall whether it was Sukhishvili or Rustavi) to appear on a NYCB program, where I think the point was to illustrate that Balanchine's love for speed had an older origin than observing how quickly Parisians or New Yorkers walked.

I still think it would be extraordinarily insensitive to say: "We feel awful that your countries have been invaded by Russia, but you see, it's left us deprived of tours by Russian companies, so would you mind performing The Sleeping Beauty in their stead?" First-World Problems.

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On 4/18/2023 at 11:38 PM, YouOverThere said:

We don't need foreign companies to present the same works that our local companies present,

How else would you learn about the small, but important differences in style, tradition, interpretation of the classics?! Only by comparing.

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