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Georgian Traditional Dance Music
[Audio CD]


OK, so you were in the audience when the Georgian dancers put on their dazzling display during the Georgian arts festival last fall. You heard the polyphonic beauty of their songs, and enjoyed the vigorous musical accompaniment. So why should you shell out big bucks for another go at Georgian folk forms while memories of San Diego's Georgian Festival linger?

The answer is--to borrow a phrase from the vernacular--"you ain't seen nothin' yet."

The 60-member Rustavi Company, which settled in for an eight-performance run at Symphony Hall on Tuesday night, did many of the same dances their compatriots performed only a few months ago. If memory serves, only three dance numbers on the Rustavi's program were new to San Diego.

That's not surprising, given the fact that the repertory of both companies dates back about 1,000 years. The major differences involve staging and theatricality.

What distinguishes the Rustavi dancers from the last troupe is their stunning virtuosity and performing brio. These personable performers demonstrated energy, enthusiasm, and a heavy dose of old-fashioned derring-do when they tossed off the exciting pyrotechnics.

Even at their most hyperactive, they danced with the precision of a crack drill team. And they had just enough dancers on stage to make the charging lines and circling ensembles that characterize all folk dance troupes look formidable.

The troupe was "on" every step of the way. With a program that spanned more 2 1/2 hours, with just a single intermission, that's quite a feat.

Artistic director Anzor Erkomaishvili has rescued a number of Georgian songs from oblivion over the years, and those made welcome additions to the program. Several of the songs had never been sung here before, and the 10-voice male choir that does these obscure songs for the Rustavi troupe was nothing short of sensational.

Music and dance are totally integrated in the Rustavi performances, so there are no dead spaces. Since the singers are right behind the dancers when they take their curtain calls, the pace is lightning quick.

The vocal numbers included the light-hearted "Chiche Tura" (The Little Jackal), a humorous song that has the singers mimicking everything from a chicken to a yelping dog. It was a surprising change of pace from the familiar Georgian folk songs.

Along with the songsters, there were dynamic drummers and a salamuri virtuoso who made that lowly shepherd's pipe sing like an enchanted bird. Unfortunately, none of the soloists was credited for individual contributions.

A descriptive program is available free, but it offers little help in deciphering who did what and which dance is which.

"Davluri" is one of the new discoveries, and it is quite lovely. The familiar trappings of Georgian dance were all in place for this stylized ensemble work, but its subject--based on an epic poem about love--is unusual.

While the men carried baskets, the central couple led a stately procession. It could have been a coronation ceremony, judging by its appearance. And the couple were both crowned during the dance. But, as the program notes indicated, this solemn court dance presents the idealized relationship of a young boy and girl.

"Kintauri," a 19th-Century dance featuring the men in a wickedly fast comic romp, was even more exciting. It had a bustling assortment of black-coated dancers (looking like medieval wizards) horsing around on the crowded stage with abandon.

This ensemble has its own version of a Russian bottle dance, which features two nimble men negotiating their mercurial moves with wine bottles (topped with lighted candles) balanced on their heads. That too had its funny side.

Of course, the men of the troupe trip along boldly on the tips of their soft leather boots, crash to the floor on their knees (sometimes with daggers flying), do battle with sharp sabers, and perform all the obligatory moves we have come to expect from Georgian dance.

The women maintain an icy serenity as they glide gracefully across the stage in the splendid gowns that tradition dictates. Georgian dance concerts mix the visual with the kinetic in striking ways, and this one is true to form.
Date Added: 11/09/2012 by Machaidze M
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