Amazing comeback for European dance troupe

February 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
The State Ballet of Georgia has made a remarkable comeback. The former Soviet Republic has recreated its dance troupe and this weekend makes its West Coast debut in Berkeley.

It's about their enthusiasm. The State Ballet of Georgia has style.

"We have something a little different than others," says Nina Ananiashvili, ballet director.

That's character and the inspiration of Nina Ananiashvili, a ballet superstar. A Bolshoi prima ballerina and every major company in the world. But her heart is in Georgia, her home. She is the ballet's artistic director.

Its roots are 150 years old. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, the ballet faltered as Georgia struggled to embrace democracy.

"... was in bad shape because there was no money, nothing. It was difficult. So the president... personally invited me to come back and build again (the) ballet company, to bring back the same name like we had in (the) Soviet period," says Ananiashvili.

And the government was willing to spend money. Years of strife, civil war, meant the near death of the ballet. But with Nina as artistic director, the ballet has been reborn.

"I want to show new dancers, new names," says Ananiashvili.

She performs with the company and makes suggestions to the dancers. She oversees the elaborate wardrobe, heading up this touring company of 80 people.

Cal Performances brings the ballet to Zellerbach Hall for its West Coast premier.

You'll find a company filled with dreams, and it's just starting all over again.

"Last three seasons we did 25 new productions," says Ananiashvili.

And more to come. The ballet is a cultural asset and emissary.

"People love art. People cannot live without what they really like," says Ananiashvili.

The State Ballet of Georgia performs at U.C. Berkeley through Sunday.

Listen to our complete interview with Nina Ananiashvili in this week's podcast.