By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Faun√©
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
In 2004, Ananiashvili was invited by the president of her Georgian homeland to take over a company that badly needed inspiring leadership. The internationally known ballerina set to work. This is the State Ballet of Georgias second visit to the Pillow and its third to the U.S (there was a BAM engagement in 2008). Its clear that Ananiashvilis own experiences with a wide range of choreographers has influenced the direction the repertory has taken. Whod have imagined this relatively small company would bring to Massachusetts a program consisting of three pas de deux and a solo by the great British master Frederick Ashton, a Balanchine duet, and a Jirí Kylián exercise in athletic modernism for eight women, along with Alexei Ratmanskys delicious Bizet Variations?
It was not to be expected that the Georgian dancers would manage all these equally well, but they perform them whole-heartedly, with varying degrees of understanding. The Ashton works all require stylistic nuances. The choreographer, even when evoking 19th-century Russian ballets, gives the classical steps and gestures unexpected subtle tones and shifts of direction. At one point in the pas de deux from his Sylvia, the man lifts his ballerina off the floor in a standing position and backs up with her; suddenly she looks like a little girl, or a doll. In the dream-of-the-Orient duet from Thais, the beguiling woman with the sinuous arms bourrées across the stage; her attentive partner follows closely, occasionally hoisting her into a low leap that barely interrupts that little stitchery of steps.
Ananiashvili brings her own particular fragrance to the Thais duetsmoky but sweet, appropriate to a veiled vision. The dreamer (David Ananeli) can hardly believe his luck: to have this woman to stroke and pull in to drape against him! No wonder he pursues her, mesmerized, as she backs smoothly into the wings. The Sylvia pas de deux looks a little off-base. Anna Muradeli is all gentle sweetness (although her footwork isnt always crisp in the demanding solo that keeps her on pointe most of the time ). Otar Khelashvili, however, has missed the modest Ashtonian tone shaping even this tutu-and-tiara number. He has a beautiful jump, but hes too busy being noble and arrogant to display real interest in his partner. I thought it telling that, at the performance I saw, while Muradeli took her solo bow, he was smoothing his hair in preparation for his own.
Voices of Spring is a different sort of duet. Set to Johann Strauss IIs rushing swirling Frulingstimmen, it was choreographed in 1977 for Britains Royal Operas production of Die Fledermaus. These two young lovers (Vasil Akhmeteli and the beguiling Lali Kandelaki) dance to the rapturous waltzoften side by sideamid fallen rose petals. Shes about to leap excitedly offstage when he retrieves her for more explosive lifts.
Jacques Offenbachs opera La Chatte métamorphosée en femme provided the music and theme of Ashtons little solo, La Chatte.Nino Ochiauri, in a bouffant white fur gown fit for a debutante, plays the initially proper cat-into-woman with appropriate pertnesspreening on a small settee before getting down to claw its upholstery. Her only partner is a large motorized mouse that sends her into a frenzy of spins about the stage.
This is the second time Ive seen Nino Gogua dance Balanchines marvelous 1972 Duo Concertant, and shes even better than beforeprecise, yet bold, responsive to the music and her partner. It helps a great deal that the partner is the gentle, attentive guest artist, Sebastian Kloberg of the Royal Danish Ballet. Andwhat luck!two killer musicians from Norfolk Chamber Music Festival/Yale School of Music, pianist Jeannette Fang and violinist David Southern, to play Stravinskys music onstage. You can sense Klobergs affinity to the brilliant score just from the way he stands listening beside the piano. He and Gogua perform the tricky, off-kilter steps with ease and lack of affectation. Only in the strange, suddenly poignant coda to the spicy duetwhen her face is framed in a pin spot of light that only widens occasionally to show him kneeling before herdoes Gogua become a little too dramatic for my taste.
The two larger group works on the program acquaint us with the company dancers in very different ways. Like all Ratmanskys ballets in one way or another, Bizet Variations (played live by Fang on an offstage piano) turns any theater into a village, full of diversions and relationships that complicate, but never stop, the business of dancing. Ananiashvili is the undisputed queen of this gathering, and although Ochiauri and Muradeli have their own partners theres no doubt as to which girl Ananeli and Khelashvili would like to be stepping out with. Even though Akhmeteli seems to be Ananiashvilis preferred swain, theres no serious rivalry between the women or the men in this happy get-together.
Interestingly, although Kyliáns 1989 Falling Angels (made for Nederland Dans Theatre) trumpets uniformity and regimentation, it tells us quite a lot about each of the eight women who perform in. The music is part one of Steve Reichs Drumming (1970-71), and Joop Caboorts mostly white lighting (adapted by Kees Tjebbes) lays bands on the stage. The performers wear soft, almost invisible shoes and outfits by Joke Visser that resemble black 1920s bathing suits with a velvety texture.