Synthesizing Elegance and Vigor with Impressive Technique: A Fusion of Tradition and Modernity

Edited by Anna Popper

Georgia (known by its native name Sakartvelo), nestled in the heart of the Caucasus region, stands out among nations. One of the most remarkable aspects of Georgia is its unparalleled cultural heritage. The country boasts a history that spans millennia. It’s where wine originated 8000 years ago and where the first Europeans lived 1.8 million years ago. With its distinct ancient language and alphabet, it was the second country after Armenia to adopt Christianity in 326, and has a unique national flag with five red crosses. Georgia’s rich cultural heritage includes polyphonic music dating back to the 4th century. In addition to its myriad unique qualities, Georgia has seen its traditional dance scene and achieved remarkable success on the global stage.

On 10th and 11th April 2024, Hungarian dance enthusiasts were treated to the eagerly anticipated performance of their beloved dance troupe Sukhishvili at the 1800-seat Erkel Theatre in Budapest. The world-class show was presented by ARTpartner – ARTentainment, led by Mr. Siniša Josipović.

Prior to the performance, Her Excellency Tamara Liluashvili, Ambassador of Georgia to Hungary hosted a reception, featuring a selection of excellent Georgian wines and delicacies. Guests from the diplomatic corps, as well as Hungarian officials and members of the Georgian community were graciously invited to attend the event in the presence of Mrs. Nino Sukhishvili, Director and General Producer of the Georgian National Ballet “Sukhishvili”.

The Georgian National Ballet was founded by eminent dancers Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili in 1945 in the capital city Tbilisi as the first professional state dance company in Georgia. It is solely thanks to them that the Georgian national dance and music have developed and become well-known all over the world. Nino and Iliko were inseparable partners both on stage and in life. Filled with determination, they made their dream a reality. Their life together was an adventure of creativity, fully realized through new generations of dancers.

Currently, the founders’ granddaughter, Mrs. Nino Sukhishvili leads the company; Iliko Sukhishvili Jr., the grandson of the founders is the artistic director and main choreographer. Over the course of 79 years, three generations of the Sukhishvili family have dedicated their lives to the Georgian State Folk Dance Ensemble.

Sukhishvili is a legendary ensemble of 150 members, dancers and musicians, that preserves the authentic traditions of Georgian dance and is also known for its innovative approach to choreography and performance. They modernize folklore themes and infuse them with classical dance elements, creating exciting and spectacular productions. Over the years, the ensemble has introduced new elements and techniques while staying true to the essence of Georgian dance. Their performances often incorporate new elements of acrobatics, ballet and theatricality, creating a unique and captivating aesthetic.

Using brilliant and colourful costumes, unique musical instruments and breathtaking choreography, Sukhishvili tells the stories of the Georgian people, their struggles, sufferings and heroic battles. With their vibrant energy, intricate footwork and expressive storytelling, Georgian dances captivate audiences worldwide, showcasing the nation’s rich cultural tapestry, leaving an indelible mark on the global stage, earning admiration and applause wherever they are presented.

The Georgian National Ballet has been represented by many well-known impresarios and companies worldwide. The Ensemble has appeared among others at the Sydney Opera, the Albert Hall, The Colosseum, The Metropolitan Opera, Madison Square Garden and dozens of iconic venues. Their show has been a huge success with at least 50 million viewers. In 1967 they were welcomed at La Scala in Milan – it was the first and only time that a folklore group was given the opportunity to perform there, and the curtain was raised 14 times, a record.

The dance style of the Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet can be described as dynamic, vibrant and deeply rooted in the Georgian cultural tradition. Their style is characterized by high energy and powerful movements. Dancers perform intricate footwork, jumps, spins and gestures with impeccable synchronization and precision. They move as a cohesive unit, perfectly timed and coordinated in their movements, composed of a blend of traditional and contemporary elements, creating a sense of harmony and unity, a visually stunning spectacle on stage. This interplay of tradition and modernity adds depth and complexity to their performances, appealing to audiences with a wide range of tastes and sensibilities.

Despite the dynamic and energetic nature of Georgian folk dance, the Sukhishvili Ballet infuses their choreography with a sense of grace and refinement. The dancers execute their movements with fluidity and poise, showcasing the elegance inherent in Georgian dance forms, characterized by meticulous attention to detail, both in the execution of individual movements and in the overall performance. Every gesture, step and transition is carefully choreographed to convey a sense of beauty.

Georgian dances are divided into solo, pair and group, the dancers do not lose their individuality as several dances require competition between partners in strength, agility, elevation and bold movements.

The male dancers can boast a highly original technique that allows them, unlike any other dancers in the world, to perform spectacular leaps and spins while dancing and moving on their tiptoes (en pointe), knuckles bent under in soft shoes (without pointe shoes), with wide smiles on their faces.

The female dancers have a beautiful role that has a grace and charm of its own, comparable with classical ballet, being in stark contrast to the male dancers. They are tender and calm, they take small steps and give the impression of slipping on the stage.

Georgian dance is rich in symbolism, and Sukhishvili dancers use expressive gestures and facial expressions to convey a range of emotions to their stories and themes.

The Hungarian audience wholeheartedly embraced the extraordinary two-hour artistry and performance of the 70 members of Sukhishvili with an orchestra, applauding numerous times throughout the show. Their palpable enthusiasm radiated through the venue and they joyfully welcomed the performers to Budapest, considering them cherished returning artists.

Georgia is a truly unique and remarkable country that captivates the imagination with its rich history, resilient spirit, diverse culture, vibrant traditions and breathtaking natural beauty. Georgia leaves an indelible mark on all who have the privilege of experiencing its wonders, including the extraordinary dances performed by Sukhishvili, as part of Georgian culture.

As Georgia’s great national poet Ilia Chavchavadze once said: “Georgia is the heart of the Caucasus, and the heart cannot be stopped.”

Sources: Embassy of Georgia in Budapest and ARTpartner

Photos by DPA, ARTpartner and Tímea Fekete