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Slavic Customs Enrich ‘Giselle’

State Ballet of Georgia light on its feet in performance of quintessential tragic tale.

The old-fashioned charms of Giselle are a natural fit for the State Ballet of Georgia, as demonstrated Tuesday night at the Arlington Theatre when the Slavic dancers presented this quintessential tragic tale.

The company, founded in the former Soviet Union in 1935, is steeped in Russian classicism and its revered traditions. Adding to the glamor in this performance was the appearance of prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili in the title role. She is well into her 40s, but still a dazzling presence on stage.

Giselle has beautiful maidens, faithless aristocratic lovers and supernatural Wilis, the spirits of jilted young girls looking for revenge in the real world. It also has, in this company’s production, gorgeous sets, some 100 dancers, and lead performers who are strong and technically proficient.

Dancing the role of Count Albrecht, the aristocrat who steals Giselle’s heart, was Vasil Akhmeteli. Hilarion, her jealous peasant suitor, was portrayed by Irakli Bakhtadze. The commanding presence of Myrta, the Queen of the Wilis, was Nino Ochiauril.

It is worth noting that Nina Ananiashvili, the poignant Giselle, was born in Georgia and before entering the dance world was a child star in ice skating. She is also a principal at American Ballet Theatre. She returned to her native land to become artistic director of the Georgian troupe when it began its present resurgence after years of deprivation and poverty under the former government.

Giselle‘s score is familiar and has always been popular, a tribute to its composer, Adolph Adam. He was a pillar of French theater for many years in the mid-19th century, and Giselle is probably his most familiar work. He also composed, among many others, the ballet Le Corsaire.

As American dance companies are delving into current stories and styles, it is enlightening to have a visit from the Georgian company. It reminds dance lovers of the charms of the classical. A stage full of Wilis in pristine white, dancing with immaculate precision, is truly a sight to behold.

The house was almost sold out this performance, but there were a number of empty seats. The current siege of flu in the community may have been the cause, one usher suggested.

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