TBILISI, Georgia (Circa) — In the country of Georgia, dance is so much more than just a hobby only a few talented people do. Everyone possesses the talent to dance, according to Otar Bluashvili the company director of the world-famous dance ensemble Erisioni.
“The Georgian gene doesn’t let them rest, so they dance,” Bluashvili said.
The Georgian capital of Tbilisi is undergoing an artistic revolution. A young generation fueled by a growing economy and social change are reshaping Georgian identity through food, music, art and culture. In a country that has been marred by recent territorial conflicts with neighboring Russia, the task of finding a unifying voice can be daunting. Especially when contested regions like Abkhazia and South Ossetia are fiercely disputed territories. Call it political theater.
But cultural institutions like Erisioni can shine a light through the oft-broken lens of politics to alleviate any confusion. Georgia — through all of its rich, historical characteristics — are exemplified through dance, song and costumes. Center stage and unabashedly forthright.
The Georgian gene doesn’t let them rest, so they dance.
Created in 1885, Erisioni, in addition to other self-attributions, has an interesting statement of declaration on their website. They label themselves as a “museum ensemble.” It’s not a far-off statement once you step into their facility located on Rustaveli Avenue, a famous street in Tbilisi that houses several other important cultural and political institutes.
The moment you step inside, a person instantly feel transported to a different time and place. Ornate, gold-carved wall trimmings adorn the two practice halls; the floorboards etched with markings and creaks felt by hundreds of dancers over generations immediately gives an atmosphere of a “sacred” space. Revered for its history and the people who championed the folk songs and dances brought to life by Erisioni.
As for the practice performance, it’s nothing short of breathtaking. In two dance practice sessions: one conducted by children as young as 6 and the other demonstrated by adults who have toured with years of experience under their belts the men take center stage, performing gravity defying moves on their toes and battling with real swords that created real sparks upon impact. The women gliding effortlessly on toes and twirls on a dime. Trying to describe it here, in words, won’t do it justice . The artistry and athleticism of Erisioni can only be appreciated by watching it.
Promoting the cultural fabric of a country with a population of about 4 million people to the world can be a daunting task. Even for Erisioni. “We were often asked who we are and where we’re from,” Bluashvili recounts the traveling trips Erisioni took during the Soviet Union era. He pauses to reflect before delivering his following remarks. “When they would hear we’re from the Soviet Union, they would ask if we are Russians. No, we’re not Russians. We’re Georgians.”