If you are ever in a city where there is a traditional Georgian dancing troupe putting on a show, no matter how expensive the tickets BUY THEM. You will be treated to an extravaganza like nothing else. I have just returned from an evening show which was the most memorable dancing I have ever seen. Bar none.
I was checking out the web site eTbilisi which is a portal for events in Tbilisi and saw that there was a show ‘Sukhishvilebi’ at the Rustavelis Theatre. I couldn’t find any details about what it was about so I asked my colleague Tamara if she had heard of it. She was shocked that the show was on and that she had not heard about it since she always attended. It was a Georgian dancing troupe who spent most of their time touring, and only performed twice a year in Tbilisi. If I wanted to learn more about Georgian culture this was a must. She sold myself and my other colleague Elizabeth on it, so we decided to attend.
We got two of the last nine tickets available and had great seats. Front row, centre. Yes, we paid a premium for them, but compared to what the same tickets would have cost overseas, it was a great deal.
The show started with eight musicians sitting in a row, two stringed instruments, two accordions, a wind instrument, and three drummers. For the next 1:30 they played traditional Georgian music without a break, including an amazing percussion display.
The dancers were excellent and did a variety of traditional dances in different costumes, but it was the men who really were the stars of the evening. They put on an athletic display that I didn’t think was possible. With leaps, spins, turns and movements that I was certain would pop a knee or pull a muscle. The speed of their spinning movements was such that you could see the sweat spinning off horizontally.
The highlight for me was the ‘Georgian Knife Dance’. Up to 24 pairs of men, with short bayonets about 18″ long and small shields fought each other. This was NOT play acting, as sparks were flying off the knives as they parried each other. I was waiting for someone to miss and see blood flying. The fact that they did this with each fighter spinning in circles, jumping over each other, at speeds that blurred the eye (let alone my phone camera) made it all the more impressive. Then came the fights with three people, and then three with no shields, just a knife in each hand.
I found a YouTube video with a sample of the knife dance. It’s at about 1 minute into the clip:
The Georgian women were far more controlled and delicate with their dancing. In fact, the way they moved it was as if they were floating on air, with their heads not bobbing up and down but on a constant plane. It was beautiful, as were the dancers, but not as memorable as the raw power and energy of the men.
This is another clip giving a sample of the dancing:
For the finale the men came back with more leaps, spins and jumps across the stage. Some got on their knees and spinning 360 degree turns made their way at full speed around the perimeter of the stage. The audience was enraptured by it all, and provided an enthusiastic background of cheering and clapping.
By the time it was over I felt a bit stunned. The display of athleticism and powerful dancing was absolutely amazing. I now know why Tamara goes every chance she gets. I’m a convert and will do my best to follow her example.