NINA ANANIASHVILI AND THE STATE BALLET OF GEORGIA IN TOKYO - 2007
NINA IN TOKYO 2007
State Ballet of Georgia
JULY 21, 2007 and JULY 22, 2007
Ballet in Two Acts, Four Scenes
Music by: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Choreography by: Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov
Staging, new libretto and new choreography by:
Assistants to Fadeyechev: Tatiana Rastorgueva,
Set and Costumes: Viacheslav Okunev
Lighting design: Paul Vidar Saevarang
Conductor: Zaza Kalmakhelidze
Orchestra: Tokyo New City Orchestra
Why do ballet lovers watch the same ballet over and over again? Not just because each viewing rewards one with greater understanding of the piece, but also because each performance is unique. Never was this more evident than when Nina Ananiashvili danced the role of Odette/Odile on two consecutive evenings in Tokyo this July.
The clamor for tickets for State Ballet of Georgia’s Swan Lake at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan was such that an additional performance was added to the schedule. Of course, the demand was overwhelming because Nina was returning to Japan after an absence of over two years. Her legion of fans came out in full force to welcome her back. They were rewarded with outstanding performances by the ballerina and the company she now heads.
SBG’s staging of the Petipa/Ivanov/Tchaikovsky masterpiece starts in a ballet studio, where dancers are going through a dress rehearsal. The principal dancing Siegfried falls into reverie and “dreams” the core of the ballet. On this Japan tour, the Bolshoi star Andrei Uvarov played Siegfried, and his magnificent form and partnering skill added much aesthetic pleasure.
On display too were the remarkably accomplished soloists of the company, who showed growing confidence in performing for a knowledgeable audience. (Tokyo probably sees more classical ballet companies/stars year after year than any other major city in the world.) On July 21, Anna Muradeli, Nino Gogua and Lasha Khozashvili sparkled in the Pas de Trois; on July 22 L. Khozashvili partnered the equally impressive Nino Makhashvili and Lana Mgebrishvili. Muradeli, Gogua and Shorena Khaindrava were regal Three Swans and Irakli Bakhtadze was the imperious Evil Genius (Rothbart) on both evenings.
But naturally, it was Nina who was the center of attention, and the heart of the ballet. Nina has danced Odette/Odile since 1982---so her interpretation has evolved through 25 years of accumulated stage and life experience. Though a time machine is not yet available, we can still see glimpses of earlier performances through videos----her Swan Lake with Perm Ballet is widely available.
Those who have followed her career over the years have gathered personal evidence of her growth in this role. Her technical prowess has made her Black Swan indelible in many dance memory banks. She still has all the skills and panache to dazzle in that act. If anything, her Odile has gained in ruthless but subtly insinuated allure through the years. Nina has perfected the confident demeanor and sharply delineated steps, turns and poses that define the seductress.
It is the White Acts, though, which have given this artist a bigger canvas on which to paint a richly nuanced characterization of the tragic Odette. On July 21, her entrance immediately communicated a sense of mysterious beauty---from delicately pointed feet to the tips of her eloquent fingers---this Swan Queen captivated Siegfried and the audience. The musicality of her phrasing and her hesitant surrender to the Prince’s wooing drew everyone into the drama. Each weighted step and swooning backbend were brushstrokes in the composition of a swan-woman who slowly dared to hope for salvation. Uvarov, who himself has developed a warmer stage persona, fully supported his ballerina’s dramatic intensity.
As excellent and satisfying as this first performance was, however, July 22 brought even greater depths. This was one of those nights when everything came together. The company seemed more comfortable on the Bunka Kaikan stage. The corps de ballet, already equal to the level of many top companies, was even more impressive, framing the action in graceful unison.
Nina herself seemed to have tapped into some deeper artistic spring. Her Odette wove a spell of mystery and tragedy with seamless lyricism. She played with musical phrasing as if time did not exist---holding a pose for eloquent meaning, varying tempos for emphases.
A signature Odette pose---holding on to Siegfried while her whole body slants away from him---touchingly signified reluctance in Scene 2. Yet in Scene 4, the same pose conveyed resignation---it was as if Odette was reaching out for something she knew was already lost. It brought tears to my eyes---and many others in the hall.
The ending, with the Principal Dancer/Siegfried waking up from his dream and searching for Odette, gave the audience a final, memorable image of Nina’s incomparable arms as she flitted across the stage with her back to the audience, arms fluttering as she faded from his memory.
Conductor Zaza Kalmakhelidze led the Tokyo New City Orchestra with sensitive authority, giving a worthy account of Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score.
State Ballet of Georgia
July 27, 2007
Ballet in Three Acts
Music by: Leon Minkus
Choreography by: Marius Petipa, Alexander Gorsky and
Staging and new choreography by: Alexei Fadeyechev
Set and Costume Design: Viacheslav Okunev
Lighting Design: Amiran Ananeli
Sets and costumes executed by the workshop of State Opera
and Ballet of Georgia
Sets made in cooperation with New National Theatre, Tokyo
Conductor: Zaza Kalmakhelidze
Orchestra: Tokyo New City Orchestra
The saying that goes, “familiarity breeds contempt” obviously does not apply when it comes to Nina in Don Quixote among Japanese balletomanes. Even when the ballet is not on the program, somehow an excerpt from it is offered as an encore when Nina and company are performing in Tokyo.
This time the full ballet was on view---in a version that incorporates choreography by the Georgian virtuoso Vakhtang Chabukiani, with additions by Alexei Fadeyechev, one of Nina’s favored partners until his retirement from the stage. The single performance in the Japanese capital reportedly sold-out the moment the date was announced.
Don Quixote showcases the depth of the company’s principal/soloist ranks. Vasil Akhmeteli displayed great form and virtuosic cape work as Espada; Maya Iluridze showed daring and flexibility as Mercedes. Vera Kikabidze and David Khovashvili relished the passionate intricacies of the Bolero, while Nino Makhashvili and Lana Mgebrishvili enlivened the stage as Kitri’s friends.
In Don Quixote’s dream, Anna Muradeli, Nino Gogua and Ekaterina Shavliashvili were notable as the Three Dryads but it was Shorena Khaindrava, dancing the Queen of the Dryads, who particularly caught my eye. A tall, well-proportioned dancer with a strong technique and stage presence, she just needs a bit more polish to take a leading place among SBG’s principals.
Though a few details distinguish this production from others, all the popular parts remain. Don Quixote (Giorgi Takashvili) and Sancho Pancha (Besarion Shatirishvili) wander in and out of the action. However, one wished the direction where more pointed and the acting more distinctive. Gamache (Evgeny Gerasimenko) too needed more definition in order to bring his character to life. The corps was lively if perhaps too uniform in their responses to the main characters.
So how was Nina? In a word, terrific. She jumped with abandon, twirled with flair, and acted up a storm as the flirty, free-spirited Kitri. Andrei Uvarov (Basil) used his height and strength to full advantage, lifting Nina high above his head repeatedly to the thrilled acclaim of the audience.
The calm contrast of the dream scene, with its pure, classical set pieces for the Dryads and Cupid, is a welcome respite. Mariam Aleksidze is not built along the petite contours usual for Cupid, but she managed the flowing bourrés nicely. Nina displayed her remarkable control in the sequence of hops and small jumps ending abruptly in poses on pointe. At the end, she traveled diagonally across the stage in three magnificent grand jetés.
The Grand Pas in the wedding scene brought the audience to the peak of excitement. For the celebrated fouettés, Nina had a surprise---instead of her usual routine, starting with both hands on her hips, then opening up one arm and then the other as she progresses---she used a fan to accentuate every fourth turn, before speeding up, only to decelerate and end the series poised on one knee.
The standing ovations went on and on---with Nina and Uvarov treating the audience to different lifts as they acknowledged the applause in numerous curtain calls. At last Nina brought out her daughter Helene---to ooohhs and aaahhhs among the fans. It was a fitting finale to the lovefest that was Don Q.