Supporting six musicians and 31 dancers, the Phoenician Wall stage looked small for the intense performance. The Georgian State Dance Company, however, are masters at their craft and easily captivated the crowd with their unique performance.
Started in 1945, by Ilis Sukhishvili Sr. and Nino Ramishvili, the company has put on over 9,000 international performances of Georgian folklore. They came to Lebanon for the third time to perform at the opening night of the Batroun International Festival, which runs until August 6.
The dancers, dressed in traditional Georgian attire, performed acrobatics with swords, daggers and shields. Meanwhile, veiled women glided and spun effortlessly, their pigtails dangling as the men whirled on their knees on the stage. The show’s grand finale included fireworks over the Mediterranean.
After the end of the mythic performance, company director Anna Sukhishvili sat down with NOW Extra to talk of national dance and the character of a country bordering both Europe and Asia.
What draws you to Lebanon time and again?
Anna Sukhishvili: It reminds me of my country – same climate and geopolitical location, same problems. We are in the middle of Europe and Asia. We are located in the middle of important trade and cultural roads, just like in Lebanon.
During our history, for centuries and centuries, we were in the middle of big empires. This has always been a problem. Lebanon reminds me of our beautiful mountains and blue sea around our capital. At the same day you can swim in the sea and go skiing. Each region has its own culture, folk[lore] and history, and its typical [array] of songs and dance.
Tell me about your group.
Anna Sukhishvili: This production is strictly Georgian. Our company was founded in 1945 after World War II by our grandparents. We are the third generation. My brother and I continue this tradition. He is the chief photographer and I, the director. In Georgia, people almost think “Sukhishvili” has the same meaning as dance because we are famous. We traveled all around the world in the past 65 years. We always change our productions and remain popular even among teenagers.
Have the dances become more traditional or modern in the evolution of the company?
Anna Sukhishvili: No, we use folk roots and build new choreography. We add difficult techniques and acrobatic movements – modern and classical styles. I think it is interesting for the whole family. During the show we try to represent the whole of our small country. The dances – seaside or mountain folklore – are different from each other in dress and technique. Our show helps the Lebanese learn of our history, customs and sorrows. Our style of living and culture is all reflected in our dances.
How long did you prepare for the production?
Anna Sukhishvili: For the two-hour show, it depends. Sometime it takes months, years or a couple of weeks. This one took us a month.
Were you satisfied with tonight’s performance?
Anna Sukhishvili: Yes, the place is beautiful. This time we only came to Lebanon for one show. Sometimes we stay in a country for two to four months or half a year. For example, two years ago we did 70 performances in three months.
How do the performers endure all these shows?
Anna Sukhishvili: They are professionals – it is their style of living. It takes a lot of force and power. If you notice our dancers are very temperamental.
What have you done differently in tonight’s performance?
Anna Sukhishvili: In the beginning of the show the dancers stood on each other’s shoulders. We call this typical Georgian dance “The Life Tower.”