When my mother complained that she hasn’t been to the Opera House for a while, I knew she was right as I didn’t even remember the last show I’d seen. It was time to take mum to attend whatever they were playing at the end of December for two reasons: 1) She’s entitled to it after spending her birthday with my sick brother at the hospital 2) What a better way to end the year with than watching something spectacular?
I was lucky as they were playing two interesting shows a week apart: an Argentinian dance group called Che Malambo and the Georgian National Ballet (the Sukhishvili). I’d never attended a show by a South American group before so I was excited about the first one. It started with a group of 12 men all in black beating on traditional drums called bombos —made of hollowed tree trunks and animal skin — using short sticks. This was followed by a fast-paced dance steps called zapateo, which was very similar to Spanish flamenco.
The choreography left us audience in awe as it was flawless and demonstrated the dancer’s capabilities — especially when performing the zapateo barefoot (I never imagined seeing a flamenco dance performed without shoes!). There was music, singing and an act where the dancer played the guitar and tap-danced at the same time (don’t ask!). The Malambo dance started as a dance duels in the 17th century that displayed the strength, dexterity and agility of the dancers. It’s inspired by the Gaucho’s cowboy tradition that’s evident through the dances: from fast footsteps that represented the galloping horses to the usage of the boleadoras (ropes weighted with stone). The boleadoras act was breathtaking as the dancers not only danced with it but also used their mouths to perfectly spin it. It was my first all-male show and I’d never witnessed a significant round of applause throughout the show, well-deserved by those dancers.
A week later, we were at the Opera again this time with my aunts, cousin and my friend Nayna to watch the Sukhishvili. Unfortunately, they were overshadowed by the perfectionism displayed by the Malambo’s company the week before. At the start, there was a slight dys-synchronisation of the dancers (some were more enthusiastic than the others) and although the programme showed different types of dances but they all looked similar. The programme mentioned a knives dance that was never performed (totally understandable. I wouldn’t want the stage to be jabbed either!). But in general, the dancers were professionals who’d shown great skills, especially at certain dances that were performed standing on their toes.
The two things that made this show special were the beautiful traditional Georgian costumes and the acts performed by female dancers, who were actually gliding on stage. Not being able to see their foot work due to their long dresses, they seemed to be moving on roller skates. My favourite dance included swords and shields duels accompanied by Georgian music, that sounded so much like its Iranian counterpart.
The Georgian National Ballet ‘Sukhishvili’ started in 1945 by real-life and dance partners Iliko and Nino Sukhishvili. They combined traditional Georgian dances along with ballet techniques to produce this unique form of dance.
Now the company is managed by their grandchildren; the third generation of dancers. In all these years, the company had toured the world and delivered more than 500 concerts. All in all, it was an enjoyable show that left me with so much energy (PS: never try spinning post-show while eating a banana. Makes you really sick till the next day!). Happy New Year
(Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. email@example.com)