About Culture – Georgian Dance (Part 1)
Georgian dance (Georgian: ქართული ცეკვა) is a celebration of life and of Georgia’s rich and diverse culture. Each dance portrays the characteristics of the region in which it originated. The mountain dances, such as Khevsuruli or Mtiuluri, are different from valley or lowland dances — e.g. Acharuli and Davluri. The costumes are different for every dance and resemble the clothing of the past in different regions of Georgia.
The dances perfectly capture the natural gracefulness and beauty of Georgian women and the courage, honor and respectfulness of Georgian men. The male dancers perform spectacular leaps and turns, incredible spins and can also boast a highly original technique for, unlike any other dancers in the world, they dance on their toes without the aid of “block” shoes. The female dancers “glide” like swans.
Georgian dance owes a huge debt of gratitude to Iliko Sukhishvili and his wife Nino Ramishvili, founders of the Georgian National Ballet. It is due to their efforts that Georgian national dancing and music has become known in many parts of the world.
The following dances are a selection of some of the most popular dances. Further dances will be described in Part 2.
Khevsuruli (ხევსურული) – This energetic mountain dance conveys love, courage, and respect for women, toughness, competition and skill.
A courting couple are disturbed by a man who desires the young woman. A conflict breaks out between the two men and their supporters but the fighting stops when the woman throws her head veil between the two men.
However, as soon as the woman leaves the scene, the fighting continues more fiercely. At the end, a woman (or women) arrive on the scene and stop the fighting by dropping the veil once again. The dance finishes without a definite conclusion and no one knows if the dispute has ended or if the fighting will continue. The Khevsuruli dance requires great skill in order to perform without hurting anyone.
Davluri (დავლური) – Davluri is an elegant city dance performed by pairs of men and women. It portrays the city aristocracy and is reminiscent of the Kartuli dance but the movements are less complicated and the male/female relationship is less formal.
Simdi – is an Ossetian dance performed by many couples. The costumes of both the male and female dancers have very long sleeves. The dance is a visual feast of black and white costumes and strict line formations.
Khorumi (ხორუმი) – This war dance originated in the region of Achara, which is located in the southwestern region of Georgia. It dates to the period of the heroic war against the invading armies of the Turks, Mongolians, and other nations. Originally performed by a few men, the dance has grown in scale and thirty or forty dancers may participate.
Suliko (also called Kokebi) - A women’s dance with water jugs (kokebi) – the women go to the stream to collect and carry water. It is a slow dance, reflecting the grace of Georgian women.
Khanjluri (ხანჯლური) – In this dance, shepherds, dressed in red chokhas (traditional men’s wear) compete with each other in the use of daggers. Performers alternate, displaying tremendous athleticism, courage and skill with daggers.
Kartuli (ქართული) – This elegant and very romantic courtship dance is probably the best known Georgian dance. Performed by a couple, the dance expresses chivalry between Georgian men and women. The man must not touch the woman, not even with his coat. He focuses on her as if she were the only woman in the whole world. His arms are at his chest, which is puffed like a peacock showing off for her and his feet move quickly in short, brushing steps. The woman keeps her eyes downcast in a demure manner at all times and glides like a swan on the smooth surface of a lake.
The dance consists of 5 distinct sections: the man invites the woman to join him (symbolic of a woman leaving her household to join his), they dance together, the man dances solo, the woman dances solo, and they conclude by dancing in unison.
Because of the discipline and skill required it is considered to be one of the most difficult Georgian dances. There were a few great performers of Kartuli, including Nino Ramishvili and Iliko Sukhishvili, and Iamze Dolaberidze and Pridon Sulaberidze.
Acharuli (აჭარული) – This dance originated in Achara region in the south-west of Georgia on the Black Sea coast. Unlike Kartuli, the relationship between men and women in this dance is more informal and lighthearted.
Svanuri - This energetic dance is typical of the Svans, a highland people who live in Svaneti region (Georgian: სვანეთი) in the northwestern part of Georgia.
Mtiuluri (მთიულური) – Mtiuluri is a mountain “festival” dance. Similar to Khevsuruli, it involves amazing twists and jumps and turns. Two groups of young men compete to perform the most complicated movements. Then, the women dance. At the end, everyone dances in a dazzling finale.
Samaia (სამაია) – The dance Samaia is performed by three women representing King Tamar, the first woman king in Georgia’s history.
The trinity idea in the dance represents King Tamar as a young princess, a wise mother and the powerful king. The soft and graceful movements create an impression of the beauty, glory and power that surrounded the King’s reign.
How to find out more about Georgian dance – Go and see a performance! Check out the touring schedules of Georgian dance companies – these include: Georgian National Ballet, Georgian National Ballet Theater “Metekhi” and Rustavi Ensemble.
There are many videos on YouTube of the dances described in this article, as well as others.
In part 2 we will share more Georgian dances!