Story by Barbara Angelakis
Photos by Manos Angelakis
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts
Located on the campus of Lehman College/CUNY
250 Bedford Park Boulevard West
Bronx, NY 10468
Reaching for the sky en pointe…
The artistic programs held at the performance center at Lehman College always draws an eclectic crowd comprised of all ages, races and cultures… sporting all manners of formal, antique, contemporary or just plain weird, dress. The audience is a real conglomeration and a perfect representation of New York style which adds a bonus, people watching, to the evening’s performance.
And at last night’s event, this diverse audience was all abuzz in anticipation of the world-class State Ballet of Georgia’s program “Mostly B”. The triple bill included two out of the three ballets to be performed, choreographed by 20th-century Georgian American choreographer George Balanchine.
World famous maestro Balanchine was known for his elegant flowing structures and Serenade, the first selection on the program, is one of his most iconic works giving full rein to the complex, but always graceful female movements, supported only periodically by male dancers.
The opening curtain rises to reveal the entire corps de ballet sublimely poised waiting. It is not long before soloist Nino Samadashvili leaps on stage and the dance begins. Intricate patterns weave in and out as the four movements of Tchaikovsky’s score give rise to different emotional expressions with the last movement evoking passion… and perhaps death. While the choreography was clearly Balanchine, this production took liberties taking into consideration the classically Russian trained dancers whose athleticism is not normally supported by Balanchine choreography. So even thought I had seen this ballet performed many times, it appeared new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the interpretation by this company.
The State Ballet of Georgia is led by Georgia native Nina Ananiashvile, a former prima ballerina at the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. Her impressive career includes serving as the Artistic Director of the Zakaria Paliashvili Ballet Theater's Ballet Ensemble and Director of the Vakhtang Chabukiani State Choreographic School in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
The stunning costumes designed by Marilyn Burbank, President of Mirella Dancewear, seemed Balanchine inspired but unlike traditional elegant Balanchine dressed dancers, they oozed eroticism as the ballerinas twisted and turned to the lively musical score. All of the soloists - Nino Samadashvili, Mari Lomjaria, Elene Gaganidze - were beautiful to behold, but Nino Samadashvili has a special quality and a gorgeous line which would have been much appreciated by Balanchine had he lived to see her dance.
The male soloists, Papuna Kapanadze and David Ananeli added tension and agility to the last two of the four movements ending by lifting Nino Samadashvili solely by her feet and ankles and carrying her upright off the stage as she lifted her arms to heaven.
After a brief intermission the dancers once again took the stage for Balanchine’s ballet Concerto Barocco set to Concerto in D minor for two violins by J.S. Bach. The entire cast danced in this short piece and although it was well-performed, for me it lacked the magic of Serenade. The female soloists were Mariam Eloshvile and Nino Samadashvile; male soloist was David Ananeli. Once again I could not take my eyes off Ms. Samadashvile whenever she was on stage. While the entire ensemble is first rate - beautiful, competent and highly talented - she just stands out with perfectly performed leaps and impeccable posture, with every position drawn out to its zenith and held before release… stunning.
The third and final piece of the evening was the company’s signature ballet Sagalobeli (i.e. a Canticle – a song or chant) which has been part of their repertoire since it premiered in 2008. Specially created for the company by Ukrainian-born internationally renowned choreographer, Yuri Possokhov, Sagalobeli is an abstract ballet set to an assemblage of Georgian folk tunes performed by the Changi Ensemble (Changi is a Georgian string instrument). The ballet is performed in a series of vignettes, featuring different combinations of dancers expressing to the different folk songs.
Again the staging, lighting (Amiran Ananiashvili) and costumes (Ana Kalatozishvili) were spectacular and added immeasurably to the enthusiastic energy with which the dancers performed the combination of ballet, folk, modern and country traditional choreography. I loved this piece with its innovative movements, delightful music and opportunity for the male danseurs to strut their stuff. I, along with the appreciative audience, delighted in the dramatic lighting and stylized hand and foot angles struck by the dancers. Female soloists were Nino Samadashvili, Mariam Eloshvili, Nino Khakhutashvili, and Elene Gaganidze. Male soloists were David Ananeli, Papuna Kapanadze, Efe Burak.
Kudos to the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts; it has once again brought to its stage an internationally acclaimed company at local community theater prices... in this day and age a much appreciated commodity by a wildly appreciative audience.
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