Famous Georgian ballet dancer Nina Ananiashvili was awarded the highest artistic prize of Georgia at a special show on Friday to mark her contribution to the country’s cultural development.
Held at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theatre, the gala concert celebrated 35 years of Ananiashvili’s stage performances.
In a move kept as a surprise for the dancer and artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia (SBG), she was handed the Oracle of Art – the top culture award by the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia.
The award ceremony was held during a ballet gala on Friday. Photo: Georgia's Culture Ministry press office.
Ananiashvili received the prize from Minister Mikheil Giorgadze on stage to mark her "special contribution to the development of Georgian culture”.
The evening’s program was originally designed as a final show of the State Ballet of Georgia in Tbilisi before the company’s departure for their 2017 tour of Japan on Sunday.
However it was eventually transformed into a celebration of Ananiashvili’s 35-year-long career and the bestowing of the official state award on her.
The Friday evening’s cast featured Ananiashvili and principal dancer Alexander Volchkov of the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow, Russia.
The ballet productions presented also featured soloists and corps de ballet artists of the State Ballet of Georgia.
The show celebrated the 35th anniversary of Ananiashvili's stage career. Photo: State Ballet of Georgia.
The featured cast danced fragments from the classical ballets The Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote as well as the one-act neoclassical ballet Serenade by George Balanchine.
Ananiashvili and Volchkov will also dance during the tour of Japan, with principal dancer of the American Ballet Theatre Marcelo Gomes also joining the cast.
The Oracle of Art marks the latest award in the long list of prizes received by Ananiashvili during her glittering career in professional dance.
Born in Tbilisi in 1963, she received her initial ballet training at the State Choreographic School in Georgia’s capital starting in 1969.
Her burgeoning talent was noticed by teachers at the Moscow Choreographic Institute, which the young dancer joined in 1976.
Ananiashvili was partnered at the gala by Alexander Volchkov of the Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow. Photo: State Ballet of Georgia.
Ananiashvili graduated from the institute to join the famous Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow in 1981 and danced all major roles in classical productions at the company.
The ballerina broke into the worldwide dancing scene in the second half of 1980s.
Along with her fellow dancers Andris Liepa and Vadim Pisarev, she became the first Soviet dancer to appear at the USA International Ballet Competition in 1986.
The Georgian ballerina and Liepa also became the first ballet artists from the Soviet Union to perform as guest soloists with the New York City Ballet in 1988.
Ananiashvili became principal dancers of one of the leading US troupes, the American Ballet Theatre, in 1993. She also performed as principal at the Houston Ballet since 1999.
The program for the evening also featured dancers of the State Ballet of Georgia. Photo: Georgia's Culture Ministry press office.
The globally celebrated dancer returned to Georgia in 2004 to lead the State Ballet of Georgia – the principal ballet company of the country which had fallen into difficult times on the back of the political unrest and economic hardship in Georgia in the 1990s.
Under Ananiashvili’s guide and renewed state funding, the company staged nearly 60 full ballet productions and smaller pieces between 2004-2014.
Even though the company’s dancers are grounded in classical dance, the SBG repertoire was enriched with both classical and contemporary productions under Ananiashvili’s leadership.
Her international reputation also allowed the famous dancer to invite some of the most recognised choreographers from across the world to stage works with the Tbilisi company.
These artists include Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian, Russia’s Alexei Ratmansky, American dancer and choreographer Trey McIntyre and Finnish choreographer Jorma Elo.
State Ballet of Georgia dancers in 'Serenade' by George Balanchine.. Photo: State Ballet of Georgia.
Under Ananiashvili the Georgian troupe has also toured extensively throughout the US, Japan and Europe since 2007.
Besides working as artistic director of the SBG, Ananiashvili also heads the Vakhtang Chabukiani State School of Ballet Art, the leading ballet education school in Tbilisi.
She has been awarded the prestigious titles of the People’s Artist of Russia and the People’s Artist of Georgia among a myriad of other state- and international prizes and honours.
Recipients of the Oracle of Art prize include Georgia’s first prima ballerina Vera Tsignadze, who passed away last year.
Other artists honoured with the prize include theatre and film director Rezo Gabriadze, author Guram Dochanashvili and opera singer Paata Burchuladze.