Mariam Aleksidze was a soloist of the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet State Theater troupe when she presented her first one-act ballet premiere to the audience. Afterwards, we spoke about the notion of the choreographer, her visions for the future, the possibilities of chamber ballet development in Tbilisi, and of course about her father – the prominent choreographer Giorgi Aleksidze, to whom the novice choreographer’s first staged ballet was dedicated. Mariam said that while her father was still alive, she promised to follow in his footsteps.
Giorgi and Mariam Aleksidze
Giorgi and Mariam Aleksidze
Dovin-Doven-Dovli… is a contemporary ballet based on the great Georgian poet Galaktion Tabidze’s poetry. Its text is not musical material, but the author’s poetry read by theater artists and well known public figures. The audio recording, like a musical score, has its own dramaturgy that is accompanied by bodily movement. She worked on the ballet in collaboration with the director Gela Kandelaki, and they selected the poems together, striving to convey Giorgi Aleksidze’s life path symbolically.
Dovin-Doven-Dovli… - Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet; photo by Tina Kazakhishvili; design by Besik Danelia (2016)
Dovin-Doven-Dovli… - a contemporary ballet based on Galaktion Tabidze’s poetry by Mariam Aleksidze. Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet - photo by T. Kazakhishvili (2019)
The premiere of Dovin-Doven-Dovli... was held in 2009 on the small stage of the Rustaveli National Theater.Mariam appeared on stage in the final episode and performed a choreographic miniature based on the original recording of the poem "The Moon of Mtatsminda” which is read by GalaktionTabidze. Giorgi Aleksidze himself staged this miniature in his last years.
Mariam presented a synthesis of Galaktion's voice, her father's footage, and her own performance as a symbolically conceptualized finale of the performance. Through this act, the novice choreographer indicated that her aesthetic principles originated in Giorgi Aleksidze’s initial ideas, carried out his artistic visions, and preserved his creative legacy. This is how the performance ends: a shot of Giorgi Aleksidze remains frozen on the screen behind the stage. It was Mariam’s first choreographed ballet, as well as one of her first Georgian ballet performances, performed in alternative space and within several years also turned out to be the premiere for a new Georgian contemporary ballet troupe: in 2016, with support from Tbilisi City Hall, the “Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet” was founded, and became an important cultural event of the year.
Marina Aleksidze with the Presidential Order of Excellence to Giorgi Aleksidze for his outstanding achievements in the art of Georgian ballet. Photo by G. Abdaladze(2021)
The formation of the ballet company and the professional development of its dancers took place at the same time. The concept of the troupe was created by Mariam together with her like-minded associates – Marina Aleksidze, the successor of Giorgi Aleksidze's choreography, now the manager and Chief Ballet Master of the troupe, and David Maziashvili, literary critic, associate professor at Tbilisi State University, and now the Company Director. While agreeing on the aesthetic principles, among other directions they set the goal of preserving and reviving Giorgi Aleksidze's choreographic legacy. During these six past seasons, Giorgi Aleksidze’s five programs were presented - ballets and miniatures staged to the music of Giya Kancheli, Sulkhan Nasidze, Ioseb Kechakmadze, Alfred Schnittke, Alban Berg, Dmitri Shostakovich,Alexander Knaifel, and Astor Piazzolla among others. The composer Giya Kancheli was one of the first Georgian artists who supported Mariam, and personally attended the revival process of the ballets staged to his own music.
Mariam Aleksidze and Giya Kancheli. Photo by I. Muradov (2012)
Diplipito – a contemporary ballet on the theme of Phaedra by Giorgi Aleksidze to the music by Giya Kancheli. Natia Bunturi as Phaedra - photo by T. Jibuti (2017)
Giorgi Aleksidze's Tbilisi Ballet repertoire is mainly comprised of Mariam Aleksidze's contemporary one-act performances. The choreographer believes that the troupe’s artistic image will not be formed unless they have their own original unique staged performances.
Prior to founding the first Contemporary Ballet Company, Mariam had directed several ballets. Her vision concerning the creative process is equally based on and integrates music, literature, poetry, painting, and philosophy. The production of contemporary ballets based on literary works and texts is a strong feature of Mariam’s work; she often cooperates with writers and academics. Staging the musicality of words, poetry and poems is her signature style. According to the concept of Prof. David Maziashvili the troupe’s gatherings with famous academicians and the educational meetings and lectures with them before each premiere has already become a tradition.
Rismag Gordeziani, David Maziashvili and Mariam Aleksidze. Photo by Silk Factory Studio (2018)
Without taking any notion of chronology into consideration, in this context I want to speak about the ballet Metamorphoses. The idea of staging the ballet began with a visit to the academician Rismag Gordeziani.
When the eminent researcher of ancient literature spoke about the Roman poet Ovid’s renowned work, he pointed out that the main essence of the text was the constant change and transformation of the world. Based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the choreographer depicted a universe which is shaped by constant change. For the musical material, the choreographer chose Johann Sebastian Bach’s works and contemporary Georgian composer Nika Machaidze’s unique musical syntheses. The choreographer often applies such collaborative methods. In the one-act ballet The Street, which was staged in 2012 at the Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Theater, the characters, seen through the eyes of a homeless man wandering the streets, are expressed with humor. Here, parts of Haydn's symphony were integrated with Georgian female composer Eka Chabashvili ‘s minimalist works. The choreographer gave the following explanation: the dialogue between early classical music and modern, minimalist, electronic music clearly shows what kind of metamorphosis music has undergone throughout the ages. Metamorphoses was born in a different space - the Silk Factory Studio was specifically arranged in accordance with David Maziashvili’s concept. According to the artistic model of Anna Ninua, the auditorium resembled a small Greco-Roman amphitheater, while on the other hand it also looked like a contemporary theater, where the audience was placed close to the action, became part of it, and took great pleasure in the experience.
Metamorphoses – a contemporary ballet based on Ovid’s poem staged by Mariam Aleksidzein accordance with David Maziashvili’s idea and concept. Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet –photo by Silk Factory Studio (2018)
Metamorphoses - Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet – photo by T. Kazakhishvili (2019)
Proximity to the audience is determined not only by the space, but also by the idea or the subject matter of the performance. The Georgian theme arouses particular interest. When Mariam was taking her first steps in choreography, she incorporated Georgian folk themes in her works, and the project was accordingly titled – Fantasia on a Georgian Folklore Theme. The choreographer interpreted Georgian folklore material in the language of contemporary dance. For the first performance, the sounds of the Abkhazian instrument Acharpani prompted her to produce improvisational sketches. Acharpani was her first ballet performed on the grand stage of Rustaveli National Theater in 2011.
Gela Kandelaki, Mariam Aleksidze and Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili. Photo: Giorgi Aleksidze Foundation (2011)
Acharpani- a contemporary ballet on the theme of Abkhazian folklore by Mariam Aleksidze. Nino Gogua and Lasha Khozashvili- photo: Giorgi Aleksidze Foundation (2011)
Before founding Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet, Mariam Aleksidze staged ten original contemporary ballets. As regards this folklore series, I am particularly fond of Alva - the scene of the struggle between darkness and light presented by the choreographer, performed to the music of Bach and contemporary composers – the works of Giya Kancheli and Arvo Pärt. With the black and white contrast of the costumes and Georgi Alexi-Meskhishvili’s scenography, the ballet ends with an escape from gloom to light. This constant vital, philosophical dilemma in contemporary ballet originated from the Khevsurian myth about a myrrh-spouting poplar tree.
Alva – a contemporary ballet based on Khevsurian myth by Mariam Aleksidze. Nino Gogua and Ekaterine Surmava- photo by G&G Project Studio (2012)
Many of the previously staged ballets were not included on the repertoire of the new theater, but the Georgian theme remained a priority for the choreographer. The ballet Gurji-Khatun is dedicated to King Tamar’s granddaughter – the wife of the Sultan of Rūm and friend of the greatest thinker of the East, Jalāl al-DīnRūmī. Mariam wanted the plot to feature specific characters. Ballet was based on the novel by Dato Turashvili. Story was presented with well-thought-out emotional movements by Natia Bunturi as Gurji Khatun, Guest Artist, Tolga Burçak performing the character of the Sultan, and among other historical figures, Ekaterine Surmava as the imaginary companion of Gurji Khatun, who conveyed the secret emotions of the Georgian Queen. Ana Kalatozishvili's costumes, which were designed with oriental, Georgian and modern elements, added more drama to the outlines of these characters. Original Music was created by composer Josef Bardanashvili. Through the expression of feelings, emotions, and relationships, the fusing of two cultures and two different worlds, two worldviews – Christianity and Islam, Mariam Aleksidze’s contemporary ballet choreography told a story full of love and drama.
Mariam Aleksidze and Josef Bardanashvili. Photo by I.Muradov (2014)
Gurji-Khatun – a contemporary ballet based on Dato Turashvili’s novel by Mariam Aleksidze. In the title role – Natia Bunturi. Photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2014)
The theme of dialogues between cultures always persists in the choreographer's ideas. At the initiative of Academician Valery Asatiani, with the Association of Persian Manuscript Miniatures, the idea of staging ballet miniatures using the love stories of Nizami's poems was brought to life in the ballet Khamsa. Music version of the performance was created by the choreographer herself based on the original music of Polad Bülbüloğlu, People’s Artist of Azerbaijan. The choreography of Khamsa was determined by the libretto that was created especially for the ballet based on Persian miniatures depicting fragments from the Quinary of Nizami Ganjavi – the greatest poet and humanist of the 12th century orient. This was a gift from the young, innovative, Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet troupe to the city of Batumi, where the premiere of the ballet Khamsa was staged. The scenography by Stage Designer of the performance, Teimuraz Murvanidze, is wholly appropriate to the choreographic conception - it presents oriental flamboyance to the audience in such a way that the notion of love has not yet vanished.
Khamsa - a contemporary ballet based on the Persian miniatures of Nizami Ganjavi’s poemsby Mariam Aleksidze. Photo: Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet (2016)
Beatrice, the only love of the great Italian philosopher and poet Dante Alighieri, and her re-embodiment and associations in his celebrated poem the Divine Comedy, are for Mariam Aleksidze symbolic of love, beauty, hope, faith, and freedom. The performance marked the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, in accordance with David Maziashvili’s idea and concept. David and Mariam’s artistic collaboration began in 2016 at the Rustaveli National Theater, when Mariam staged a choreographic fantasia Shakespeare.Love in cooperation with world-famous director Robert Sturua. The performance Shakespeare.Love at the Rustaveli National Theater marked the 400th anniversary of the great playwright ‘s death. At that time, David Maziashvili was Robert Sturua's adviser on scientific and educational issues, and while working on Shakespeare.Love he shared his ideas with the choreographer regarding the play's dramaturgy.
Mariam Aleksidze and David Maziashvili. Photo by T. Kazakhishvili (2022)
Shakespeare. Love – a choreographic fantasia by Mariam Aleksidze. Rustaveli National Theater -photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2016)
The premiere of Beatrice was supported by the Embassy of Italy in Tbilisi; for Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet it was the first large-scale and significant international project – their world premiere. The production featured original music composed by -the Academy Award and Golden Globe-winning composer Dario Marianelli especially for Mariam Aleksidze and David Maziashvili, and commissioned by the Giorgi Aleksidze Foundation. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Maestro Marianelli arrived in Georgia and attended the premiere performances of Beatrice in both Tbilisi and Batumi.
Mariam Aleksidze, Dario Marianelli, David Maziashvili. Photo by T.Kobiashvili (2021)
The music was performed directly on the Rustaveli National Theater stage by the Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra – Georgian Sinfonietta. At first glance, placement of the orchestra on the stage seemed to interfere with perception of the choreography, but by the end of the performance it had become clear that it was the original idea of the choreographer to express the theme and the music simultaneously through the plasticity of the body.
Beatrice – a contemporary ballet based on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy staged by Mariam Aleksidze in accordance with David Maziashvili’s idea and concept, to the original music by Dario Marianelli. In the title role - Mariam Darchia. Photo by T. Kazakhishvili (2021)
Beatrice - Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet - photo by T. Kazakhishvili (2021)
This plasticity was rendered even more impressive by virtue of the exquisite, original costumes made by the renowned Georgian designer Tamuna Ingorokva and the animated portals series by the artist Konstantine Mindadze. In the title role the company’s Principal Mariam Darchia, strove with sophisticated movements to accurately depict the choreographer's conception, to portray the symbol of freedom, love, and hope - a woman in whom, according to the choreographer, many other female characters are united: those who carry the light that beautifies the world.
However, women also have their share of sadness and pain, which was presented in the multimedia contemporary ballet 12 Visits. The performance took place in the yard of Alternative Art Space № 12, site of the former № 12 Penitentiary Facility. The prisoners' cells and the female family members who visited them were voiced through the language of dance, where the sadness of prisoners’ mothers, demands for the protection of women's rights, as well as social protest could be heard – feelings and actions that sometimes impel people to commit crimes. The open-air performance was a child of the Covid-19 pandemic era, born at a time when the lockdown regulations had eased a little and it became easier to hold outdoor art events.
12 Visits- a Contemporary Multimedia Ballet by Mariam Aleksidze and David Maziashvili. Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet – photo by T.Kobiashvili (2021)
The pandemic forced us to lead a different life, which also had an impact on theater. There was more time to think, and in consequence new ideas were engendered. Two years ago, when the world's theaters were isolated and closed, and online screenings of their own productions were staged, Mariam Aleksidze utilized this time to implement new ideas. The concept, presented in the 34-minute film-ballet Lucia's Room, was a response to the pandemic situation.
Lucia's Room - a Film by Mariam Aleksidze and David Maziashvili based on James Joyce’s works. In the title role - Mariam Darchia. Photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2020)
The main character of the mono-choreographic performance is Lucia, the loving daughter of the greatest Irish writer of the 20th century, James Joyce, whose own life is associated with loneliness and tragedy. Lucia’s emotional and spiritual state, the story of one day in her life, was superbly conveyed by Mariam Darchia – Company’s Principal Dancer.The film was recently honored with a Special Mention Award at the Bloomsday International Film Festival in Dublin. In 2022, James Joyce's novel Ulysses celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and accordingly films based on or inspired by Joyce’s works were presented at the festival. Lucia's Room is a continuation of the series of virtual contemporary choreographic performances that were created and actualized by Mariam Aleksidze in cooperation with David Maziashvili.
Lucia's Room – Bloomsday Film Festival (2022)
Participation in the Bloomsday International Film Festival was one of the major international projects of Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet. The troupe had already toured in Stuttgart and Zurich in collaboration with German-based Georgian musician Russudan Meipariani’s Ensemble the Swiss-based musician Irina Vardeli and the musicians of The Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. In 2020, Mariam Aleksidze participated in David Maziashvili’s special academic event Shakespeare in Georgia (exhibition, seminar, and video screening), which was presented at the Bodleian Library of the University of Oxford. Mariam Aleksidze was invited by the University of Oxford: a video screening of the choreographic fantasia Shakespeare. Love was presented, and a meeting with the choreographer was also part of the event. Additionally, within the framework of the Jerusalem International Solo Dance Festival, the Solo Dance Miniature The Street - a portrait of a woman, was successfully performed by soloist Mariam Koiava.
The Street - a portrait of a woman by Mariam Aleksidze. Mariam Koiava- photo by Jerusalem International Solo Dance Festival (2022)
Since 2018, Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet has collaborated with the Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra – Georgian Sinfonietta, which holds an annual Tbilisi Baroque Festival.Within the framework of the Baroque Festival and in partnership with Georgian Sinfonietta, Mariam staged Folia synthesizing authentic live performance of Baroque music and contemporary ballet. Mariam Aleksidze’s original concept The Bach Project was enacted with J. S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations performed live on the stage by pianist Dudana Mazmanishvili (2019), along with The Cello Suites performed by Mattia Zappa, cellist of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (2022).
Folia– a contemporary ballet staged by Mariam Aleksidze to the live performance of Baroque music by Tbilisi State Chamber Orchestra – Georgian Sinfonietta. Intigam Mammadov- photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2018)
J. S. Bach’s The Goldberg Variations by Mariam Aleksidze. Natalia Kukuladze - photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2019)
The Bach Project by Mariam Aleksidze. Giorgi Aleksidze Tbilisi Contemporary Ballet - photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2022)
Mariam Aleksidze’s great-grandmother Marijan (Mariam Tkemaladze-Aleksidze) was one of the first professional female Georgian poets and one of the founders of Georgian children's literature who also wrote diaries. It was the time of the Soviet regime. The female poet wrote about freedom, love, and sublime beauty. Marijan's Room was the first mono-choreographic performance during the Covid-19 lockdown, and was broadcast to the audience on social media. At her great-grandmother's house, in the cozy, vintage environs of Old Tbilisi, Mariam transformed in order to demonstrate the emotions that the diaries had evoked in her. For the choreographer, it was a personal and spiritual connection with her great-grandmother: echoes of her diaries – the words, music, and memories transformed by the language of choreography, interlaced with the cultural context of the family that had determined Mariam's role as choreographer and preserver of this cultural legacy. Here is where the idea was born, and subsequently, the aesthetics of a new ballet theater was developed. Now we call it Aleksidze’s Ballet.
Marijan's Room – a Film by Mariam Aleksidze and David Maziashvili based on the diaries of Marijan. In the title role- Mariam Aleksidze. Photo by T.Kazakhishvili (2020)