Georgian folk dancing: it's as hard as it looks

After shopping in London, members of the Georgian State Dance Company returned to the Dominion Theatre for the night's show to find, to their surprise, that the stage was buzzing with activity. What? More Georgian dancers?

No, it was one of Britain's established amateur folk dance ensembles, the Balalaika Dance Group of London, which performs authentic Soviet dances including four from Georgia. Tengiz Sukhishvili, artistic director, had agreed to help us with style and to teach us a new dance. But it appeared the company itself had not been told.

Quickly he summoned it and invited us to take seats in the darkened theater while members performed two episodes from their ``Georgian Suite'' -- just for us.

In practice clothes, the men swiveled and jumped, while the women, gracefully using arms and wrists, glided downstage still looking a little bewildered.

We returned to the stage, and the tables were turned. We had to learn and dance while most of the company sat in the stalls watching us. An awesome moment.

Nor was it as easy as it looked.

Those simple hand movements together with the gliding (whose secret was ``pull up firmly and lock the knees together as you move'') did not come naturally.

We needed a lot of patient correcting from two dance teachers. Our men had to practice runs, bends, and slick, tricky footwork -- but, fortunately for them, no toe-dancing.

The watching Georgians smiled.

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