Friday, June 13, 2008

Glad I stayed!

The air in the Tbilisi Zakharia Paliashvili Opera and Ballet Theatre was heavy with the scent of a thousand blooms today. The seats were crowded with children of all sizes, adults, former and current dancers (with males that's really difficult to tell, females you identify by the pulled-back hair and by the age of 60 high hairline). But I know the males were there; one was sitting beside me, the other in the row behind a few seats away, and conversations were carried on regardless. ('Do you see - three boys!' 'Three boys - do you see them? Right at the back' 'Look at those three boys - wow, only three boys'). My Georgian is getting quite good, really!

It was the annual end of ballet school performance - the Tbilisi V Chakubiani State School of Ballet, since you are asking. (For those in the new EU it's worth mentioning that a couple of years ago the university terms were shifted by about 6 weeks, and not start in mid-October. At the moment the conservatoire is just finishing its exams - whereas Vilnius students are ready to lie on the beach).

We'd been there before, last year with my mum. I have to admit that in the first half of the first half I felt sorry for Ms Ananiashvili, the director of the Tbilisi ballet, who recently took it on tour to the US, where she got a lot of sympathetic reviews (how's that for damning with faint praise). What an uphill struggle she'd have working with this lot, I thought. They were all ok dancers, some better than others, but oy vey, the synchronicity! Every mass move was more a Mexican wave than a human machine. Positioning on stage, equal distances? You know how you arrange naturalised daffodils? You throw them on the ground and plant them where they fall. This, at times, was the arrangement of the dancers on the stage.

With some of the male dancers I thought that yes, once again, there is a dearth of male dancers, isn't there? The little children were cute, of course. Aaaaaah. Some of the choreographies were a little far-fetched, but ah well, they won't all become dancers, will they. With some of the more adult young ladies the same structural problem arose that had been visible in the previous day's concert.

Then we got a bit of Swan Lake, complete with the full set, in that dark wood glen scene with the swans, and of course, the four little swans. It was the first time that it occurred to me how difficult that little thing must be, with legs going all over the place, heads nodding - if someone gets her legs in a fankle, they'll all fall down. That did not happen. The dancing of the soloists was good, if uninspired, and the other swans did their bit, keeping more or less together.

The second half was 'Cinderella's Dream', an excerpt from Prokofiev's 'Cinderella'. It was wonderful! What a transformation! Again there was the full opera house set, and the delightful Lasha Khozashvili was 'a fellow' as it says in the programme - ie the prince (he got very good reviews in that US tour). It was great! Cinderella was good, but the two ugly sisters, and especially their mother, were wonderful (not exactly at the level of the guys dancing the ugly sisters at the Berlin Staatsoper, but never mind), as was the good fairy. Khozashvili just had a ball jumping and athleticising all over the place. It was worth going for that alone! And it will still be on tomorrow.