Vakhtang Chabukiani Celebrated

 By Marylis Sevilla-Gonzaga


A gala concert was held on October 24, 2010, at Tbilisi Concert Hall to mark the 100th birthday anniversary of the other great Georgian ballet dancer, VAKHTANG CHABUKIANI. It marked the end of a weeklong commemoration of the life of this great male virtuoso.

Chabukiani, bravura dancer, innovative choreographer and influential pedagogue was remembered and celebrated in all aspects of his achievements.

The event started with a film collage. Even with grainy, faded images, the power and charisma of the artist was excitingly palpable.

Naturally, the cream of Georgian-born ballet dancers currently active in companies outside the country gathered in Tbilisi for the occasion. Among them were Irma Nioradze of the Mariinsky, Elena Glurdjidze of English National Ballet and David Makhateli of the Royal Ballet, Covent Garden.

Igor Zelensky, who was one of Chabukiani’s last pupils, also participated. While still dancing with the Mariinsky, he is artistic director of Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet.

Stars from other companies who literally dropped in for the day were Tamara Rojo of the Royal Ballet, Angel Corella, of American Ballet Theatre and his own company, Carmen Corella, now a principal with Corella Ballet and Arionel Vargas of English National Ballet.

The evening’s program was remarkable for its sense of dance history and display of talent. The youngest participants came, not just from the V. Chabukiani State School of Ballet Art, who performed to the overture from Rossini’s opera Cinderella, but also the Children’s Choreographic Ensemble Shejibri. The latter group of boys played drums with astounding rhythmic precision, then jumped, twirled and danced on their soft-booted toes to rousing Georgian folk music. (Inspiration for Michael Jackson?).


Several numbers highlighted choreography by the celebrant: State Ballet of Georgia’s Nino Gogua and Vasil Akhmeteli led the ensemble in the Adagio and “Khorumi” from the first Georgian ballet Heart of the Mountains by A. Balanchivadze;  Zelensky and Lali Kandelaki sparked the Pas d’Action from the Shades Act of La Bayadère. As a special treat, Nina danced the “Lekuri” from the opera Keto and Kote by V. Dolidze---with steps reconstructed by G. Marghania. The Dance with Castanets and Pas d’Action from Laurencia ended the evening on a triumphant note.


The usual gala bonbons garnished the evening: Two soloists from the Bolshoi, Anastasia Stashkevich and Vyacheslav Lopatin, displayed their strong technique in the “Diane and Acteon” pas de deux from  La Esmeralda. She is small and beautifully proportioned; already an accomplished performer, she needs to listen to her music with more care. Lopatin, of average height and build, displays clear lines and strong control.

Tamara Rojo, an acknowledged star on the international stage, showed why in the Black Swan pas de deux, throwing off those double fouettés with practiced aplomb; David Makhateli was her attentive Prince Siegfried.

The audience was particularly moved by the lyrically impassioned dancing of Glurdjidze and Vargas in the Bedroom Scene pas de deux from Manon. The pair flowed in spontaneous steps and embraces in one of MacMillan’s most popular creations.

Kandelaki tamed her fire to portray Nikiya’s ghost; Zelensky performed all of Solor’s jumps with determination---his back injury a few year’s back is probably still a source of pain.

Angel and his sister Carmen showed off their top form in Solea, music by R. Lebaniegos and choreography by Maria Pages. Angel later laid on the charm with We Got It Good by Duke Ellington, with steps by Stanton Welch.

Sergei Filin, now artistic director of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre, brought two notable soloists (Natalia Somova and Semyon Chiudin) to perform an adagio from Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort, to music by Mozart. Tango legend Astor Piazzola provided the tunes for Nioradze and partner Andrei Yermakov’s tepid transliteration of the Argentinian staple, with choreography by A. Polubentsev.

Georgia’s other gift to ballet, George Balanchine, was represented on the program by Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, neatly danced by Glurdjidze and Vargas.

Nina’s other number was The Dying Swan; if you’ve ever seen her do it, nothing more need be said. If not, travel any distance to experience it the next time she announces a performance.

With Chabukiani, Balanchine, Ananiashvili, to put it in reverse alphabetical order, Georgia has a truly magnificent ballet triumvirate.