Not quite Nina

By JANINE PARKER  |  May 7, 2009

And the State Ballet of Georgia? I’d call it a second- or maybe third-tier ballet company. In addition to the mish-mash of excerpts from Don Quixote called the Don Quixote Grand Divertissement, the program consisted of George Balanchine’s 1981 work Mozartiana (though born in St. Petersburg, Mr. B was of Georgian heritage) and Second Before the Ground, which Trey McIntyre choreographed for Houston Ballet in 1996. The irony is that it was Mozartiana in which the company looked least comfortable. Set to Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Orchestral Suite, this is another of Mr. B’s delicious “who needs a plot when there’s this much enigma in the steps” ballets. But there was too much enigma for most of the dancers, who failed to find either natural expressions — somber became mouth drawn down and eyebrows melodramatically pinched together; happy became a fleetingly nervous smile — or an ease, a fullness, in the choreography. The two men, Lasha Khozashvili and David Khozashvili, in particular struggled to find a balance between playful, mincing petit allegro and bounding grand allegro, seeming never to leave the ground for either. Yet they both looked technically capable, and David Khozashvili confirmed that impression in the rest of the program. The lead woman, Nino Gogua of the lovely legs and feet, is talented young dancer, but it seemed that each movement was approached with held breath and suspended belief — “Wait, I’m going to do a piqué arabesque here” — followed by relieved exhalation — “Ah, look I did it . . . now on to the next step.” Much of the ballet felt like that: chopped up and endured with stoicism.

Second Before the Ground brought more hope. This ballet, we were told, is based on an African legend in which people remember the happiest and most important moments of their life just before they die. I admit that on hearing the opening notes of the Kronos Quartet composition (jaunty violin with African drumming) and seeing the dancers lit in sunny yellow, I feared we were about to be subjected to one of those “up with people” ballets. There are a few moments where the sweet becomes saccharine, but mostly this is a fun, breezy dance with patterns and shapes that you don’t see coming. And it was refreshing to watch the dancers relax into it — they started dancing, and they looked great. In one group section, the men moved in a circle with their female partners, suddenly swooping them low to the ground, the women’s legs in a wide seconde, whooshing just above the floor, and the women themselves smiling irrepressibly. The third duet, danced by Ekaterine Chubinidze and Vasil Akhmeteli, sealed the deal with its nuanced weight and dry humor. Chubinidze was suddenly — to our surprise and hers — swinging in the air, and moments later she returned the favor by cartwheeling right into Akhmeteli, who nevertheless caught her easily and folded her into another unexpected position.

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  Topics: Dance , Entertainment, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Natalia Makarova,  More more >
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 See all articles by: JANINE PARKER