This is a company in which size matters. The large ensemble of the Georgian State Dance Company, with its 70 dancers, makes possible the dramatic corps de ballet work that lies at the center of this highly successful folkloric troupe's aesthetic. On Sunday at the George Mason University Center for the Arts, the corps' ordered floor patterns stretched across the stage to create spectacle on a large scale.
Some people are snobbish about this genre of refined folklore, preferring the original dances minus glamour. But these people miss the point: This is theater. It works because all the dancers are the same height, perfectly coiffed and precise in everything, even their gaze. The women's long black braids reach to exactly the same point at their hips, and when the men are lined up, their red sashes are so uniformly placed that they make one big red slash across the stage. The costumes were designed by the late, great Solomon Virsaladze, who was chief designer for the Bolshoi Theater, and they help the ensemble create designs of color and mass.
The company's capacity to please the eye is matched by the dancers' ability to move like the dickens. Their leaps defy gravity. They do double pirouettes beginning on their knees. Jet-speed turns are finished off cleanly. To say that the company's dancing is high energy is too pallid a description. The program is the equivalent of 2 1/2 hours of double fortissimo.
As do many companies when touring, the Georgian State Dance Company brought a fair number of warhorses that have been in its repertoire for a while. Some have improved with age, like "Samaia," with its three bejeweled queens taken from medieval portrait painting. It proved the centerpiece of the first half because its mood was so serene (a great contrast to much of the rest of the program). The way the women seemed to float was unearthly, and they evoked a happier time when Georgia was a rich and powerful kingdom.
A fair number of pieces were new Georgian choreography, described in the program notes as modern dance on a folk base. These dances took on story lines or freed the women from their bourree-like floating steps to kick up their heels, just like the men.
The Georgian State Dance Company has managed to survive for 50 years, while other large, post-World War II folkloric companies have not. More than nationalistic fervor is keeping it alive. Perhaps its longevity comes from dedication to the founders' original and highly successful vision. The general producer, Tengiz Sukhishvili, is the son of the company's founders, Nino Ramishvili and her late husband, Iliko Sukhishvili. Their daughter-in-law, Inga Sukhishvili, is its choreographer, and their granddaughter and grandson are also on staff.
This dance company proves that theatrical folklore is both refined art and great entertainment. It makes you smile and dazzles the eye. If all troupes quickened the pulse as this one does, you'd have to post police at dance concerts to control the crowds.