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 Post subject: State Ballet of Georgia
PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:10 pm 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
I attended the State Ballet of Georgia performance at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley on Thursday night. Overall the display of dancing was enjoyable, barring some very, very young corps members throughout. The evening was extra special for the premieres of two new works, one by Alexei Ratmansky and one by Yuri Possokhov, both specifically for the company.

Nina Ananiashvili herself now directs the company but still dances in it, so we were treated to her appearance in the third piece of the evening (Ratmansky's). She will dance in "Giselle" tonight as well.

Read on for my review. Toba Singer will also be providing her views to Critical Dance regarding this performance.

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Mixed Program: “Chaconne”, “Duo Concertante”, “Bizet Variations”, and “Sagalobeli”
State Ballet of Georgia
14 February 2008
Zellerbach Hall
Berkeley, California

By Catherine Pawlick

Few balletomanes worldwide have not heard the name Nina Ananiashvili, but those who have witnessed her dancing are blessed indeed. The former Bolshoi ballerina, frequently paired with the famous danseur Andris Liepa in her earlier years, became a long time principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and has a glorious international reputation that precedes her. The recipient of two international gold medals, the National Prize of Russia, State Prize of Georgia and the highest Russian State award, Ananiashvili is a People’s Artist of Georgia and Russia who continues to blossom in her career, directing and dancing in the State Ballet of Georgia since 2004.

The company culls its dancers from several local schools, namely the Tblisi State Choreographic School or the State Choreographic School of Georgia, both based on the famed Vaganova method of classical ballet training. Several of the principal dancers have experience in other companies in Turkey, but most of the corps de ballet appeared fresh out of their respective training grounds, visually no more than 16 years old. The company is small – no more than 25 dancers – and opening night’s mixed program offered plenty of dancing opportunity for all of them.

The program opened with Balanchine’s “Chaconne”, an apt selection given Mr. Balanchine’s own Georgian roots. The Gluck-inspired piece opens with young women bourée-ing in pale, flowing dresses, their hair down. Anna Muradeli, a beautiful blonde with strong, tapered legs, slender arms and high arches, created a lyrical fantasy with partner Vasil Akhmeteli, whose serious demeanor added a note of gravity to the dance. Muradeli’s beauty of line is mesmerizing to behold. In one series of partnered turns, her spine was so erect so as to suggest a spinning top. Muradeli’s regality and elegance of movement are sure to lead her to a long and fruitful career.

The signature Russian arabesque position – back squared off, but hip open to enhance the line – appeared across the corps de ballet, underlined by low arabesque arms. The trio who entered in the emboité-piqué arabesque sequence, Rusudan Kvitsiani, Ekaterina Chubinidze and Otar Khelashvili, managed to hold their balanced poses together, adding a nice layer of structure in the corps work. Unfortunately while Tsisia Cholokashvili, a shorter soloist in a small green “leaf” tutu, imbibed the petit allegro section with plenty of charisma, her dramatic flair did not compensate for unrefined footwork and weaker lines than the other soloists displayed. In particular, the promenades in attitude derrière on a bent supporting knee – not the most elegant pose to begin with – seemed stiff, at one point partner David Khozashvili resorting to a tug to keep the movement going. On the other hand, Mariam Aleksidze’s ability to hold one’s attention in the middle of four other female soloists pointed to her own budding star qualities.
It must be noted that Russians trained in the Vaganova style do not, as a rule, dance Balanchine the way that New York City Ballet dancers do. Whether or not this is a flaw is debatable – the Georgian dancers offer their own version of Balanchine, similar to Kirov-Mariinsky interpretations. As long as one is prepared for the difference, expectations can be kept in check.

So, if the quality of the legwork in some of the female corps lacked refinement in “Chaconne”, the signature Vaganova port de bras and épaulement made up for that with synchronized lines, pliant upper backs and uniform arm and head positions. However, that upper body pliancy greeted us along with crisp legwork in the program’s second piece, “Duo Concertante”, another Balanchine work set to music by Stravinsky.

In this ballet, a couple stands near the onstage piano and violinist, listening to a musical selection, and then walks to center stage to dance. Nino Gogua, a dark-haired beauty with perfect legs set off by a white leotard dress, danced alongside partner Lasha Khozashvili, perhaps the most sophisticated male in the company. The couple’s crisp delivery, emotional interaction, and polished technique took the evening up several notches. I could have stared at Gogua’s legs for hours – soft, pliant ankles proved strong as steel throughout her footwork, and several poses displayed her flexible upper back. At one point the theme of searching appears as spotlights are used to separate Gogua and Khozashvili from each other. Her love-infused kiss blown to the air, and his attempts to find her in the darkness added a special dramatic edge. Judging by the audience’s wild applause, this is a piece the company would do well to repeat.

Alexei Ratmansky, whose much advertised imminent departure as artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet has caused a stir in the ballet world, created a “Bizet Variations” for the State Ballet of Georgia, employing the sculpted grace of the Russian school in a balanced if complex interplay between three couples. The women, dressed in various shades of periwinkle and purple organza knee-length gowns, and decorative flowers in their hair, were met, partnered, and chased by three men. Ratmansky’s excellence in choreography – he hears each melody and theme, dissects it, and shows us the musical notes through the bodies onstage – revealed itself in sweeping lifts and turns. His refreshing use of canon and various couplings lent an additional depth to the piece as we witnessed brief pas de deux between men, or the trio of women dancing alone. He often employed a saut de basque into a deep lunge position – the women’s legs reaching behind them on the floor with their arms stretched taut in front, pulled forward by their partners. Ratmansky left no level of elevation unexplored, whether on the floor or high in the air. Without question, Nina Ananiashvili herself stole the stage in this piece with soulful emotion that shifted to playfulness with one of her partners. There was even one sparkling grand jete, the Bolshoi kind, where the front leg kicks out and the body continues to soar forward, as if the dancer weren’t meant to walk on the ground with other human beings. When one watches the composer’s “Chromatic Variations”, is a lovely piece that reveals the talents of its choreographer while offering the dancers a substantial dish of dancing on which to chew.

Bay Area favorite and resident San Francisco Ballet choreographer Yuri Possokhov created the last ballet of the evening, “Sagalobeli”, set to recorded music by the Georgian Sagalobeli Ensemble. As the program notes, Possokhov was surprised when Ananiashvili, a fellow Bolshoi schoolmate, asked him to stage a ballet to the music of Tblisi’s urban folklore. The result, a flavorful, earthy and ethnic mix set to drum- and flute- based music, utilizes the contrast between strong masculinity and soft femininity to create a uniquely Georgian feel. The men, dressed in brown vests and boots à la Spartacus, showed off toned biceps while performing any number of flexed heel steps, abrupt direction changes, high jumps and rhythm-based movements, initially using a rope as a prop in a male pas de deux. The women’s graceful rhythms appeared more delicate in contrast, their flowing arms creating silhouettes against an ochre colored backdrop, no doubt meant to evoke the warm Tblisi sunshine. Possokhov’s choreography made for a good beginning which progressed towards a sensual pas de deux by the couple who danced in “Duo” -- Gugoa and Khozashvili. Further to his credit, it would be hard to imagine any other company achieving the proper balance of soft and hard, feminine and masculine, emulating the warm Georgian sunshine, the southern tempo of life and love in this short piece. However, the ballet ended abruptly, lending a sense of incompletion when the lights finally went dark. Despite its ability to achieve ethic energy, “Sagalobeli” needs more development.

The State Ballet of Georgia is a fine company of young dancers and several emerging talents. Led by Ananiashvili’s name and fame, its future possibilities certainly look bright. Following the Berkeley stop, the company will continue onto a five-week tour with stops in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, New York, Chicago and Minneapolis. Those who have the opportunity to see the State Ballet of Georgia would be remiss not to indulge. Rare is the chance to see budding international stars in the making.


Last edited by Catherine Pawlick on Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:14 pm 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Ms. Howard's rather harsh ínitial assessment will mean that many readers who put down the review after two sentences may decide never to see this company, a great loss indeed, in my opinion. But then, the Bay Area has a tradition of criticizing any outside troupes presumably to bolster attendance to the larger local companies, so this is par for the course.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... erformance

Star Ballerina Rebuilds State Ballet of Georgia

Quote:
The State Ballet of Georgia has a star artistic director, Nina Ananiashvili, but it is not a star vehicle. Those who came to UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall on a mission to see the radiant former Bolshoi ballerina got little value for their tickets Thursday; Ananiashvili, who dances less and less for American Ballet Theatre these days, appeared only once, in a throwaway role that showcased her easy warmth but hardly grandstanded her full talents ...


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 16, 2008 4:24 pm 
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I think it's hard to critically evaluate a company who is definitely up and coming, with "loving" leadership as the review clearly states and headed in the right direction. But at best, the company still has yet to grow into its big shoes and expectations, and at worst, seemd to have bit off more than they can chew at the state that their company is in now. The Possohkov piece made the night worth it for me, but overall I thought the night was uneven. Now I'm really curious what their Giselle was like!

I too thought that the Chaconne duet in the beginning (where the woman had her hair down) was beautifully intimate, and the choreography really was stunning. Thanks for providing the information about the dancers' backgrounds, I wondered if they had been trained at the Bolshoi.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 17, 2008 3:00 pm 
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Location: St. Petersburg, Russia
Hi DaisyJo, and welcome to Critical Dance. We always look forward to welcoming new posters in our forums!

Thanks also for sharing your views (and your review) on the State Ballet of Georgia.

I'll agree the evening was uneven. I thought Duo Concertante or even Ratmansky's piece were stronger than Possokhov's though. For me, the lack of an ending in Possokhov's work made the whole piece lack structural coherency that the other pieces (all of them) had.

Historically, Russian-trained dancers (politically correct or not, I include Georgian in that category, for whether or not they trained at the Bolshoi, the training is still Vaganova-based) have a hard time mastering the hip thrusts and off-balance/abandoned poses of Balanchine. I see this every month at the Kirov but after four years living in Petersburg, am now used to it, so I suppose it did not surprise me. Their training simply doesn't lend itself to those movements. The result is NOT the same as what you'd see at SFB or NYCB in the same pieces. So I am prepared when I see a Vaganova trained dancer in Balanchine, but I realize that's pretty rare to see State-side these days unless it is by a visiting troupe. To watch Russian-trained dancers dancing a Russo-Georgian choreographer's work to me is interesting -- that there IS a difference between the interpretations.

I too wonder about "Giselle"-- both the Ananiashvili performance and the other principal dancers. I wasn't able to attend, so if anyone reading this thread saw them, do share your thoughts!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 19, 2008 8:14 pm 
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Thursday, February 14, 2008, State Ballet of Georgia, Mixed Rep: “Chaconne,” “Duo Concertant,” “Bizet Variations” and “Sagalobeli,” Cal Performances, Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley, CA

George Balanchine’s “Chaconne” opens to the backdrop of a pale blue sky with very young-looking corps de ballet dancers who, hair unbound, bourrée as if their feet were just the tiniest plumes of vapor, to music from Christoph Willibald Gluck’s opera “Orfeo and Euridice.” They capture the gentle weight shifts that Balanchine loved to play with. A male dancer enters almost imperceptibly to take a slow diagonal walk downstage as the corps sweeps itself out of sight. It is then that we really see her, Anna Muradeli, who will be the partner of the male dancer Vasil Akhmeteli in a brightly focused display of technical fastidiousness shepherded by the neoclassical lines that Mr. B's choreography demands of even Vaganova-trained dancers. All goes swimmingly until the allegro requires the kind of feet that Russian men rarely have—pointed, articulate and fast—without them the pas de trois is a little slushy. Soloists Ana Turazahvili and Irakli Bakhtadze dance like Gemini twins, restore the lightness, whether dancing together or with their pas de quatre partners.

Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant,” on the other hand is a piece that Nino Gogua and Lasha Khozashvili totally “get.” An onstage baby grand piano is played by John Parr who is accompanied on violin by Franklyn D’Antonio. Standing at the piano, Gogua and Khozashvili are serendipitously patient until they come center stage and take on the challenge of the Stravinksy score. The melody is almost atonal and leaves all the dance inclination to the bass. The tic toc precision of the arms syncopated with sculpted feet on lifted beats, and the use by partners of the flashlight to reveal each other on a darkened stage lends a Pointillist texture and mood to the piece. Khozashvili, back to the audience, literally pets the air with her arms on one side and then the other as if she were changing the temperature in the house. In the men’s variation Gogua makes ample use of his agile spine and well-placed arms; in the women’s, Khozashvili’s clean lines seem to invite the music to spill over her into the audience. Their adagio has them folding in and out of one another, a leg extend here and there.

“Duo Concertant” is a nice prelude to Alex Ratmansky’s “Bizet Variations” which adds a lovely rondure to the program. With dancers costumed in gentian and periwinkle-toned “ballerina-length” dresses with garlands of flowers encircling their hair, romance is in the air on this Valentine’s Day. While the steps are delectably Cecchetti-reminiscent with enchanting switchback jumps and guys who are bigger and stronger than in “Chaconne” doing work that is cleaner and clearer in motive, and women giving us generous and caring ballonés, there is nothing prissy or sentimental to mar the tasteful flourishes that appoint this chromatic piece. Nina Ananiashvili, the company’s artistic director and a world famous étoile, appears toward the end of the piece. She is subtly impaneled into this triptych, not as a star, but shining brightly nonetheless.

The evening’s closer is Yuri Possokhov’s tribute to his Georgian roots, “Sagalobeli” introduced by a horn solo before the curtain opens. It forecasts that the theme of the piece is Georgian folk music. In the program notes it states that Possokhov deliberately avoided using folkloric steps and gestures, and yet we do see the planted heel with upturned toe and the contrasting elevated jumps by the men interspersed with classical ballet steps and women dancing like milkmaids. It seems a little forced, as if someone walked up to me and said, “Make a ballet based on the music of the Bronx” and feeling loyal to my home borough, I obligingly if reluctantly whip up something danceable to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with the requisite funky chicken thrown in. Let’s just say it wasn’t the kind of challenge that brought us “Magrittomania” or “Damned” by the same choreographer, and it didn’t inspire work on a par with those two pieces.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:35 pm 
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I saw their Giselle last night in Santa Barbara, and thought it was very competently danced: professional, but not one for the ages. It's worth seeing because they do everything well, just no fireworks. Myrtha and her two assistants were very good, as were the corps.

It was interesting to see some minor changes and different staging choices, but nothing earthshaking.

--Andre


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2008 7:08 am 
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Catherine Pawlick wrote:
But then, the Bay Area has a tradition of criticizing any outside troupes presumably to bolster attendance to the larger local companies, so this is par for the course.


:shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:
It's a DANCE conspiracy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2008 10:29 pm 
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I ran into someone who saw their Giselle in Berkeley and was not impressed with the production itself, but seemed to enjoy the dancing. I am curious what the choreography was and if they use the Kirov version or not...


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 2:41 pm 
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Laura Bleiberg reviews the mixed repertoire program presented at UCLA in the Orange County Register:

OC Register

Lewis Segal in the Los Angeles Times:

LA Times


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 3:35 pm 
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Lewis Segal reviews Nina Ananiashvili's "Giselle" in the Los Angeles Times:

LA Times

The version performed is credited to Alexei Fadeyechev (Bolshoi).


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 27, 2008 2:35 pm 
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The New York Times' Jennifer Dunning interviews Nina Ananiashvili about starting up the company from scratch with no money:

NY Times


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 29, 2008 6:30 pm 
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The New York press reviews the mixed repertoire program of "Chaconne," "Duo Concertant," "Bizet Variations" and "Sagalobeli."

Alastair Macaulay in the New York Times:

NY Times

Tobi Tobias in Bloomberg.com:

Bloomberg.com


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 6:18 pm 
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Alastair Macaulay discusses Alexei Ratmansky's choreography in the New York Times:

NY Times


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