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Aristocratic Folk 

click to enlarge Might as well jump: Georgia State dancers.
  • Might as well jump: Georgia State dancers.

Costumed like a gathering of extras from Fiddler on the Roof, the Georgian State Dance Company is known for its traditional and very rousing folk-dance extravaganzas, complete with high-kicking acrobatics, swordplay and even some playful cross-dressing. The 80-member troupe (with musicians) will present its program of some 20 Georgian folk dances on Thu., Nov. 1, at the Byham Theater.

Think "former-Soviet Union Georgia" -- not the state north of Florida. It's the same land that produced George Balanchine, the father of America ballet. Once known as the Soviet Union's California for its sunny climate and rich agricultural base, the Black Sea nation (now part of the Commonwealth of Independent States) has churned out a number of dance greats. They include Bolshoi Ballet and American Ballet Theatre star Nina Ananiashvili, as well as Georgian State Dance Company founders Nina Ramishvili and Iliko Sukhishvili.

The pair got their start with Georgia's noted Tbilisi Opera and Ballet Company, and then launched Georgia State Dance Company in 1945, to celebrate the region's folk-dance heritage. The company -- currently led by third-generation members of the Sukhishvili family -- has been bringing that rich heritage around the globe ever since, with frequent visits to the U.S. since 1960.

Unlike many folk-dance troupes that focus on peasant life, the Georgian State Dance Company's repertoire centers on Georgia's aristocratic heritage. A plethora of opulent-looking costumes feature women in long gowns and headdresses, and men in tunics, long coats, hats and boots. And as is traditional with this region's dances, the women maintain an air of aloofness while the men do all the showing off, from acrobatic flips and bravura leaps to deep-knee-bend kicks and dancing on their tip-toes.

The Georgia State Dance Company is a perennial audience-pleaser, with a program that journeys through centuries-old dances speaking of love, war, nobility and ceremony.

Georgian State Dance Company 7:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 1. Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown. $20-$32. 412-456-6666 or www.pgharts.org

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