Chabukiani, Balanchivadze, Ananiashvili

October 20, 2009

Tbilisi is known as the birthplace of George Balanchine, Nina Ananiashvili, and Chabukiani. Never heard of the last one? He ran the ballet school and company here in Tbilisi for years in the 70s and 80s, and he was one of Nina’s first teachers.  I finally saw a film of him dancing that confirmed what fantastic dancer he was. I also saw a showing of the students in the school named after him,the Chabukiani State School of Choreography, now under Nina’s leadership. Different age groups came out and showed their stuff, some classical ballet, some character dance, and some a bit jazzy. A group  of very small girls, in black with yellow ribbons around their waists, simply stepped slowly on releve, was captivating….so proud, so touching. For extra oomph, a terrific group of 16-yr old drummers, resident at the Rustaveli Theatre, pounded and slapped their drums on every surface, then danced up a storm the way only the Georgian folk dancers can do — double tours landing on their knees, turning on their knees at top speed and doing a sort of fast gigue on crunched toes.  The 12-yr old in their midst every now and then yelled something; this boy was so confident that he was quite charismatic. And tho it was hard to watch the surely damaging stomping on the toe knuckles, it was all very exciting. Plus a 6-yr old danced with the sharpest shapes and quickest footwork you could imagine.

Later we dined at Nina’s house, and I learned that she is something of a ballet historian. SHe showed us bound books full of old photos of Maryinsky dancers from  almost 100 years ago, and of course many photos of her beloved teacher and coach, Raissa Struchkova. And Nina entertained us with many stories, illustrating them, sometimes with the help of Sergei Filin, that had us bursting with laughter.

 The downer of the day was that the statue of Balanchine, pointing his foot in tendu with is hand turned out (you know, from that famous photo of him) had been defaced the night before with white chalk or paint.

Tomorrow is the big premiere, Bournonville’s “From Siberia to Moscow.”