Liepa Hosts 10th Anniversary Celebration of Friends of the Georgian Ballet

Stravinsky’s Firebird opened the spectacular variety performance in recognition of the work and dedication of the small group of expats and locals who have, for the past ten years, donated time and money to the promotion of ballet in Georgia.

The set was breath-takingly colorful and organic- like the best Gaudi mosaic, complimented by a sturdy wall sculpted with the profiles of fallen soldiers and a golden gate separating foreground from rear. The costumes, we found out, had been brought from the Bolshoi the night before, as the originals, on tour in Spain, had got stuck on their way home in snowy Istanbul. The Firebird, played by Yulia Stepanova of the Bolshoi, appeared, soon followed by the amorous prince (Philip Fedulov). The movements were reminiscent of the dance performed so beautifully by the State’s artistic director some years ago- Prima Ballerina Nina Ananiashvili, whose Firebird so well teased the Prince that was Russian ballet star of the late 80s and early 90s, Andris Liepa, laureate of numerous competitions, long-term partner of Nina, choreographer and producer.

Andris, who in a short private interview with GEORGIA TODAY later extolled Nina’s energy and directing, had come especially to Georgia to stage the dedication to the Friends, as well as to celebrate his 55th birthday, which he did with a video and photo show of his best moments, earning appreciative applause from the packed hall of the Tbilisi Opera.

The dedication continued with extracts of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker (Nino Samadashvili, Frank van Tongeren); Le Spectre de la Rose- featuring the prima ballerina in a reprised role, one of her favorites, with Jacopo Tissi of La Scala; the graceful Giselle (Nutsa Chekurashvili and Yonen Takano); Raymonda (featuring the Bolshoi beauty Alyona Kovalyova, with Jacopo Tissi); and a breath-taking pas de deux from Thais, performed by Ekaterine Surmava and David Ananeli.

But by far the biggest surprise of the show was Mack Brooklyn from the Washington Ballet, USA, who knocked the audience into stunned silence (followed by thunderous applause) with a solo dance choreographed by Dai Jian titled On the Way, set against a digital background of clouds floating in the sky. He returned at the end with long-term Tbilisi favorite Lali Kandelaki in an energetic extended pas de deux from Adam’s Le Corsaire.

After the show, a selection of guests was invited to join the Friends of the Georgian Ballet (FGB), the dancers and, of course, Nina and Andris, in the Red Hall of the Opera House for a champagne and wine reception (Bagrationi and Chateau Mukhrani, respectively) to celebrate the 10th anniversary of collaboration.

Francesca Kelly, wife to the US Ambassador and Friends Board member, kicked off the party by reminding those present why they were there:

“The FGB was established for the 2006-2007 ballet season by Mariella Tefft, the wife of the then-US Ambassador to Georgia,” she said. “The Friends’ mission was and still is to support the Chabukiani Ballet school and to support the State Ballet of Georgia. Many students at the school receive scholarships from us. Members of the FGB have gone and come over the years but we have all been united by the strong determination to support and maintain the standards of the State Ballet. We have more members than ever before, but are open to more and we are privileged to have been able to watch the positive changes in the country and in ballet in Georgia over the past ten years.”

“Our Friends around the world send their love and support to our kids, even after they leave Georgia- giving our young dancers the chance to grow into stars and enter and win international competitions. Thank you to the Friends!” Nina told the guests.

GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Andris Liepa about his impressions of the Georgian troupe and the theater itself.

“The theater is amazing- attracting visitors for its looks alone. It has something special, and has seen many great dancers perform. In fact, mine and Nina’s first performance took place here- we were both 18. My first Swan Lake premiered here and we had various gala events. It is wonderful to see the new spirit of the theater in the next generation, brought up under Nina’s tutorship. My father (Maris Liepa) was teaching Nina and I pas de deux for three years- and now she is passing our school on to a new generation. Nina became an international superstar, got exposure in the West never seen in this region before. And her stamina is incredible- tonight she danced Le Spectre with my 21-year-old student Jacopo as she did when she and I were 22.”

The party guests then took part in an auction of artworks and items donated by the Friends, including two pairs of Nina’s ballet slippers, signed. The money raised went to support the above aims of the FGB organization.

About the Friends of the Georgian Ballet: The Friends have a special relationship with the Georgian Ballet – they receive information on the Ballet Company’s news, upcoming performances and other events on a regular basis, invitations to special celebrations (e.g. the season opening reception and scholarship awarding ceremony, Opera House tour, book presentations) where they can meet and interact with Nina and the Ballet Company’s soloists in person and get to know more about the life of the Georgian Ballet. For more information or to join, contact:

Katie Ruth Davies

19 January 2017 19:15