Text and Photos by Zurab Balanchivadze
Georgia once gave the world two of its most famous male ballet dancers – George (Giorgi) Balanchine, considered the father of American ballet, and Vakhtang Chabukiani. But today there are few Georgian male dancers performing principal roles.
Nino Ananiashvili, 56, Georgia's most famous ballerina today, says the lack of strong male ballet dancers has been a problem for the past two decades.
Now the artistic director of ballet at the Tbilisi State Theater of Opera and Ballet, Ananiashvili is a world-renowned ballerina in her own right (she was once listed among the twelve greatest ballerinas of all time).
But today, she says, parents refuse to allow their sons to become ballet dancers. There is a fear, that transcends parents' level of education and social status, that "all make ballet dancers are gay," she says.
"Many times I have seen young boys overwhelmed by the ballet performances at our theater and it is these – very educated – parents who will not allow them to follow their new interests," Ananiashvili says.
At the very least, ballet dancing is seen as "not masculine" – a stereotype that baffles Ananiashvili. "I cannot understand how dancing with, and lifting up, so many beautiful ballerinas could be perceived as some kind of feminine act," she says.
Mariam Aleksidze, 41, the daughter of famous Georgian ballet dancer Giorgi Aleksidze and an artistic director and choreographer at Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet, believes that ballet should be well developed and prestigious in the country that produced three famous male dancers: like George Balanchine, Vakhtang Chabukiani and Giorgi Aleksidze. But she notes that the turmoil of the 1990s had a chilling effect on ballet and Georgian society as a whole.
"Starting from that period, values began to change in society, as well as the attitude -- not only towards ballet -- but towards other professions as well. As classical ballet requires intensive training starting in childhood, the decision has to somehow be made by the parents. And the cultural environment, mentality and the future perspective of ballet influences this decision,” she says, pointing out that enrolling boys in classic ballet schools is even problematic in many European countries.