State Ballet of Georgia to Revive the Danish Ballet “Nathalie”

The much-awaited Danish ballet “From Siberia to Moscow,” or “Nathalie,” is coming back to Georgia after 10 years thanks to the artistic synergy and lasting friendship between Nino Ananiashvili, Artistic Director of the State Ballet of Georgia, and the Danish choreographers Frank Andersen and Dinna Bjorn. Andersen was twice Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Ballet, and Bjorn is a dancer specialized in directing Bournonville’s ballet. It is a world-premiere, since the ballet has been out of the Royal Danish Ballet’s repertoire since 1904. “Nathalie” is the last ballet of the Danish choreographer August Bournonville, written in 1876, three years before he passed away. First staged in 2009 at the State Ballet of Georgia, the ballet was a triumph, acclaimed by critics for the careful reconstruction and the subtle inclusion of Georgian traditional dance. The two choreographers gave an exclusive interview to GEORGIA TODAY, ahead of the premiere on October 16.

Tell us more about the ballet.

[Dinna] Bournonville is the base of the Danish ballet’s style and repertoire and Natalie is the last he created. August Bournonville directed the Royal Danish Ballet for almost 50 years and choreographed 60 ballets; about 10 are still alive and have never been out of our repertoire since 1800. It is the specificities of this style, conserved and represented by the Royal Danish Ballet without interruption till today.

But of course, presenting Bournonville ballets exactly how they were back in the 19th century would surely look strange to a modern public. The girls did not go on point, for instance. The art of ballet is not a museum piece. We are reviving a living tradition, but we are not transforming its spirit and aims.

The same is true for “Nathalie”. This ballet has been out of the Danish Royal Ballet repertoire for over 100 years. It was last staged in 1904 in Copenhagen, but fortunately, Bournonville had his own notation system and kept detailed notes. Based on these written archives and our knowledge of the Bournonville style, we brought this ballet back to life, together with Nino Ananiashvili. To date, Georgia is the only place in the world staging this ballet.

The ballet was a triumph here in Georgia in 2009. What can spectators expect from this reedition?

The story is the same but the dancers are new: they were kids at the time and now they are part of the company and have principal roles and are giving their own personalities to the ballet. It is exciting both for those who did it before and for the new ones. We’re not changing the steps, we are keeping the tradition and giving them the opportunity to be part of it.

The Bournonville style of dancing is characterized by lightness, as if the dancers were floating. There seems to be an organic relationship between his style and the Georgian traditional dance. How come?

Bournonville has always been inspired by national dance, and he travelled a lot. Every place he went, he took some details of the folklore dance and put it into his works. The production itself incorporates part of the Georgian traditional dance. Also, Bournonville ballet is about people, real people and their problems. This ballet is a true story, with problems that echo the audience’s own worries and dilemmas. In the same tradition, we, as choreographers, are also inspired by the countries we visit, by the dancers we meet, by the choreographers we exchange with, and it is amazing to see how the Bournonville tradition survives here in Georgia.

How does it feel to see Tbilisi burgeoning, and to be part of its cultural blossoming?

[Frank] I first came 15 years ago and there were no street lights in Rustaveli. The city is exploding, which is wonderful. The development is happening really fast and I’m so happy that I have been able to see all these fantastic changes.

The country owes Nino Ananiashvili a lot, because she is bringing the company back to its former pride. She has done so much to attract foreign directors and composers, and to show them what they can do here in Georgia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and I am sure there is more to come.

The ballet will be presented at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theatre on October 16, 17 and 18.

By Lorraine Vaney

Image Source: State Ballet of Georgia

03 October 2019 17:05