Nina Ananiashvili’s State Ballet of Georgia Returns to the U.S. This Month

April 11, 2023

This month, the 171-year-old State Ballet of Georgia returns to the U.S. for the first time in seven years. Under the direction of former American Ballet Theatre and Bolshoi Ballet principal (and longtime ballet icon) Nina Ananiashvili since 2004, the 62-dancer company, based in Tbilisi, Georgia, has made a name for itself with its expanded neoclassical repertoire and international touring. Visiting five cities across the U.S., SBoG presents Mostly B, a triple bill featuring either George Balanchine’s Serenade or Mozartiana alongside Concerto Barocco and Yuri Possokhov’s homage to Georgia, Sagalobeli.

In front of ornate teal and gold arabesque-patterned wallpaper, Nina Ananiashvili, shown hips-up, poses for a portrait in a white cotton blouse and rust-colored trousers. She faces slightly away from the camera and looks into the lens smiling slightly, her right arm folded across her hip.
Nina Ananiashvili. Photo courtesy SBoG.

Ananiashvili, a past Pointe cover star and native Georgian, is particularly excited to return to New York City when the company performs at the Bronx’s Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on April 16.

“I have a special, special feeling about the United States and New York,” she tells Pointe over Zoom. “ABT is like my second company—I worked there for more than 16 years. I have so many wonderful partners, colleagues, and friends there… So many fond memories.” And there is a good chance, she notes, that some of the audiences who saw her perform then will have the chance to see her work in a different light now that she’s officially retired from the stage. 

Ananiashvili’s ties to the city run deep; she was also the first ballerina from the former USSR to be invited to perform with New York City Ballet as a guest artist in 1988. Having developed a great fondness for works by Balanchine (who also happened to be of Georgian descent), she has made a point to add many of them to SBoG’s repertoire. But having the company perform those ballets in his New York City stomping grounds, she admits, is always a bit nerve-racking.

Onstage in front of a dark teal backdrop, five female dancers and one male dancers pose together in a performance of George Balanchine's <i>Concerto Barocco</i>.
State Ballet of Georgia in George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. Photo courtesy SBoG.

“We really love to dance Balanchine—I mean, we are Georgian, and these ballets are masterpieces. I’m nervous inside, but it’s a happy kind of nervous, you know?”

Possokhov’s Sagalobeli, with its celebratory yet soulful movement and integration of Georgian national music, was a no-brainer to include in the program, she says. The neoclassical ballet, debuted by SBoG in 2007, has become a signature company work.

“People love this ballet everywhere we perform it,” Ananiashvili says. “It’s also very important to me to present my country, our culture, our company. Because a lot of people in the United States don’t even know where Georgia is!”

Onstage and lit in dark blue, two pairs of male and female dancers perform a mirrored pas de deux in neutral-colored costumes.
State Ballet of Georgia in Yuri Possokhov’s Sagalobeli. Photo courtesy SBoG.

But putting Georgia back on U.S. balletgoers’ maps has not exactly been easy. The company’s plans to tour North America several years ago were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and following complications—it had even gotten as far as shipping sets and costumes overseas before international shutdowns mandated their swift (and expensive) return in 2020. Even now, international tours are a behemoth to organize, says Ananiashvili, so for the company to finally make its return to the U.S. this year is a triumph.

“This has been so many years’ work,” she says with an exhale, then a smile. “I can’t wait until we’re there, sharing our love and art with the United States.”

The State Ballet of Georgia will perform at the following venues and dates:

Fairfax, VA: George Mason University Center for the Arts, April 15

New York, NY: Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, April 16

New Orleans, LA: Mahalia Jackson Theater, April 22

Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Northrop Auditorium, April 26

Detroit, MI: Detroit Opera, April 29–30