Flying through the air of the Belgrade MTS Dvorana were the light, yet powerful dancers of the Samaia European Tour ensemble. They compete through beautifully choreographed movements in the name of medieval tradition and the prestige held by the title of a Kartvelian dancer in modern-day Georgian society. This amalgam of classical ballet, warfare agility, showmanship, as well as a search for love is valued globally for its unique set of required skills. Including outmost athleticism.

Georgian dances
Photo: J.L.

The show features the traditional wedding dance named Kartuli and spectacular war dances, such as Khorumi. They are followed by playful moods of Adjaruli. Finally, Belgrade saw the number which holds name of the entire project – Samaia. Originally a pagan ritual performed between men and women, Samaia became a symbol of the queen Tamar of Georgia. The first Georgian queen marked the country’s Golden Age and is now celebrated through graceful movements by three of the best female dancers. The soloists form a peaceful yet powerful atmosphere on the stage.

The mesmerising ladies of the Samaia Tour are stunningly graceful. Their swan-like arms seem to keep them floating on air, as they do not appear to be touching the ground beneath their feet. Instead, they glide through time and space, dressed in intricate hand made costumes that emphasise the beauty of their movement, allowing the audience a significant insight into Georgian history. 

Bringing the crowds to their feet are the forceful and yet elegant male dancers

Skilled like no others, they spend a seeming eternity in the air, only to be spinning on their knees across the stage and gliding their shins in a single beat. Georgian National Dances are very particular because the men are the ones to go en pointe. Unlike classical ballet where the women hold their weight on mere centimetres of their pointe shoe, Georgian men dance on the knuckles of their toes. Dividing them from the floor is only a thin layer of a leather boot. They will tap, twist and turn with footwork faster than any football player. Holding high arabesques with incredible power and stamina, disregarding any pain and discomfort, they keep an invincibly stern look.

Throughout history, it was the men’s agility in dancing that allowed them to marry. The bride’s family would traditionally choose only the best dancer for their daughter. The skill and strength depicted in the dance was a representation of the groom’s life strength, capacity for warfare, as well as virtuous behaviour.

Georgian dancers spend most of their childhood and young adult life training for every single one of these performances, becoming both athletes and artists. The gruelling hours of their rigorous daily sessions feature both classical ballet training and endurance work, while specialising in the movement seen only in Kartvelian dances. This art form requires incredible power and stamina, which are practised through high intensity repetitions.

As you watch these men and women you immediately understand the daily amount of pain, the high risk of injury, the months invested in perfecting every single count of the movements that have been maintained for centuries. Everything that is done in the name of love and pride. Both towards the country and the craft. A love that artists and athletes alike will affirm matches no other. 

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