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Judge Nina Ananiashvili

Judge Nina Ananiashvili

She was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. By the time she was ten, she was Georgia's junior skating champion. That same year, she started ballet training in Tbilisi. Encouraged by her teachers, she soon abandoned skating for ballet studies at the Georgian State Choreographic School. Nina's impressive progress was noted by dance authorities, who persuaded her parents to let their daughter continue her training in Moscow. Thus, when she was thirteen, she entered the Moscow Choreographic School, the school of the Bolshoi Ballet. Her first teacher in that venerable institution was Natalia Viktorovna Zolotova.

Even before she graduated from the school, Ananiashvili had already won the Gold Medal (Junior Division) at the prestigious Varna International Competition (1980), and the Grand Prix (Junior) at the Moscow International Ballet Competition (1981), with Andris Liepa as her partner.

She joined the Bolshoi Ballet upon graduation in 1981; Raissa Stepanovna Struchkova had been her mentor in the company. She danced her first major role, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, while on tour with the Bolshoi in Germany in 1982 to the outstanding public and critical acclaim.

She was soon awarded principal status, and given prima ballerina roles in such classics as Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, La Bayadere, Raymonda and Romeo and Juliet.

In 1985, she won the Gold Medal (Senior) in the Moscow International Ballet Competition and in 1986, she and Liepa were both winners of the Grand Prix in the international competition in Jackson, Mississippi (USA).

A hit with audience and critics during the 1986 Bolshoi tour of the UK and 1987 Bolshoi tour of the USA, Ananiashvili and Liepa became the first Soviet dancers to guest with the New York City Ballet in 1988, where they danced Raymonda Variations, Symphony in C and Apollo.

Ananiashvili went on to become a truly international ballet superstar. While retaining her status as prima ballerina of the Bolshoi she became a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She also appeared with the Royal Danish Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, the U.K.'s Royal Ballet, Covent Garden, Royal Swedish Ballet, Ballet de Monte Carlo, the National Ballets of Norway, Finland and Portugal, Birmingham Ballet, Boston Ballet, Munich Ballet, Houston Ballet and Tokyo Ballet among others. She also toured with her own company, "Nina Ananiashvili and International Stars". Her most frequent partner at the Bolshoi and on tour was Aleksei Fadeyechev.

Ananiashvili, who has been awarded the Rustaveli State Prize of Georgia and the State Prize of Russia "Triumph" for her outstanding achievements, continued to expand her repertory throughout her career. In 1997, she added the title role in Ronald Hynd's choreographic version of The Merry Widow for ABT. Houston Ballet artistic director Ben Stevenson created The Snow Maiden for her in 1998. In 1998, Nina also danced Medora in the first night of ABT's first-ever production of Le Corsaire. For ABT's 1999 tour of Japan, Nina added the role of the Glove Seller in Massine's Gaite Parisienne.

With the Bolshoi, and her own traveling ensemble, Nina has sought to explore other dance idioms. She "discovered" Alexei Ratmansky (now resident choreographer for ABT) and asked him to choreograph for her troupe. Nina Ananiashvili and Friends since has toured with The Charms of Mannerism and Dreams about Japan all around the world. Upon Nina's insistence the Bolshoi integrated the legacy of George Balanchine into its repertory, bringing Symphony in C and Mozartiana to Moscow. In both of those masterpieces Nina displayed her affinity for the late great choreographer.

Since Alexei Fadeyechev retired from dancing at the Bolshoi Ballet (he became artistic director of the Bolshoi), Nina had been partnered by Sergei Filin and Andrei Uvarov. She danced Nikiya (La Bayadere), Raymonda and Kitri (Don Quixote) with them for the Bolshoi's highly successful season at the London Coliseum in 1999.

In 2000, the Bolshoi launched its revival of Petipa's La Fille du Pharaon, and Nina had the first night honors. For the summer of 2000 U.S. tour by the company, she danced in L. Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet and in Fadeyechev's restaging of Don Quixote. When the Bolshoi came to New York in July 2000 as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, Nina danced Giselle, Symphony in C and the grand pas from Don Quixote. In between these engagements, Nina appeared with ABT at the Metropolitan Opera House, notably in La Sylphide with Angel Corella and Kevin McKenzie's Swan Lake, partnered by Julio Bocca, who has been her favored partner at ABT. In 2001, Nina celebrated her twentieth anniversary with the Bolshoi. Yet, she has truly been more than a Bolshoi ballerina---a ballet superstar who has been beloved around the world since the start of her career. Not one to rest on her already astounding accomplishments, she continued to stretch herself artistically with new ballets. In 2001, she commissioned and danced in the premieres of Stanton Welch's Green and Opus X; title role in the world premiere of Leah, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky to Leonard Bernstein’s The Dybbuk. Nina, who surprisingly had never danced before in Italy, conquered audiences in Genoa and Milan, where she danced the Nureyev version of Swan Lake with the La Scala Ballet. For ABT's spring season at the Metropolitan Opera, she took part in Mark Morris' Gong. The highlight of the year turned out to be her eight-city Japan Tour -- featuring Ben Stevenson’s atmospheric Three Preludes and a grand suite from Sleeping Beauty---with five incomparable cavaliers (Belogolotsev, Filin, Picone, Possokhov, Uvarov).

In January 2002, she was back onstage at the Bolshoi and ABT. Fortuitously, ABT added Frederic Ashton's La Fille Mal Gardee to its repertory in June 2002, so Nina had a chance to reprise Lise--- one of the most lovable characters in all of ballet---and a role she had danced ten years before with the Royal Ballet. 2002-2003 ABT season also saw Nina deepening her mastery of Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux and Symphony in C. For ABT’s subsequent tour of Japan, Nina danced Le Corsaire, The Merry Widow and excerpts from Sleeping Beauty. Immediately after, she danced the full ballet with the Bolshoi in Tokyo. She returned to New York for ABT’s City Center fall season----sparkling in Balanchine’s Sylvia and Ben Stevenson's version of the Esmeralda pas de deux. She flirted outrageously as the naughty operetta diva in Antony Tudor’s Offenbach in the Underworld.

Nina turned forty in 2003 and seemed to treat the event as just another birthday. Dancing with undiminished power and polish, she maintained her usual full schedule. She added Hungary to her list of conquests, garnering raves for two performances of Sleeping Beauty in Budapest with the Hungarian National Ballet. In June, ABT marked her tenth anniversary as a member of the company. She has been ardently loved and admired by the New York audience, and she rewarded them with two unforgettable performances of Swan Lake to cap an intensely glorious season. In the fall of 2003, Nina had a full slate at the Bolshoi, dancing in the company’s versions of Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardee. Nina's Japanese fans had a treat in February 2004, when “Nina and Friends,” which included Bolshoi stars Inna Petrova, Dmitri Belogolotsev, Sergei Filin, Yuri Kletsov and Andrei Uvarov, toured Japan with excerpts from Swan Lake plus Stanton Welch’s Green and Trey McIntyre’s Second Before the Ground. At London’s Sadler Wells Theatre the following month, the tour program included Alexei Ratmansky’s Leah and Dreams About Japan plus Ben Stevenson’s Three Preludes. The novelty of ABT’s 2004 spring season at the Metropolitan Opera was Petipa's Raymonda, which Nina transcended. Even more rewarding for artist and audience were the ballerina's performances in Balanchine's Mozartiana and Ballet Imperial.

2004 marked a turning point in Nina’s life. At the invitation of Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili, she took on the responsibilities of Artistic Director of State Ballet of Georgia. By October of that year, Nina had installed a new administrative staff and started revamping SBG's repertory. She said farewell to the Bolshoi in December of 2004 with two unforgettable Swan Lakes. In Tbilisi her presence and the renewed, generous support of the Georgian government lifted the dancers' morale. New ballets and new stagings of standard repertory were quickly put in place---works by Welch, Ratmansky, Ashton and Balanchine were some challenges that the company conquered with the help of especially invited ballet masters and coaches from world renowned companies.

On February 14, 2006, Nina and her husband Gregory Vashadze (currently the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia) had a welcomed addition to the family: a baby girl, Helene Vashadze.

Nina did not return to the stage until April of 2007. She rejoined ABT at the Metropolitan Opera for its spring season, dancing her accustomed roles and particularly, Odette/Odile with glorious technical command and artistry. She also led SBG in its first U.S. appearances---the company was seen at the Spoleto Festival, Giselle in New York and at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival.

A tour of Japan in summer of 2007 was followed by another SBG tour of the U.S. in winter 2008, highlighted by performances at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music. In Tbilisi, the company added more Ashton ballets to its repertory, including Marguerite and Armand, originally created for Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. By August, the company was on the road again----representing Georgia at Scotland’s Edinburgh Festival, where Nina danced several performances.

2008 proved momentous for Georgia and SBG. Just as the company was starting its appearance at Edinburgh Festival, Russian forces commited an act of the military agression against Georgia. It was only with the concerted efforts of the Georgian nation, Western European countries and the U.S. that Russia was prodded to withdraw its forces. With aplomb, SBG carried on its planned season.

Nina had earlier announced that 2009 would be her final season as a regular principal ballerina with American Ballet Theater---and so it was with hearts full of emotion that her New York fans gathered for each precious performance from May to June. Performances in Le Corsaire, Giselle, La Sylphide and Mozartiana preceded one final outstanding and unforgettable Swan Lake.

In 2010-2012 Nina led the SBG through new Japanese, Italian, Chinese and American tours. The company has premiered five new ballets. And in March of 2012 international festivities to commemorate Nina's Thirty Years on Stage took place.

Nina Ananiashvili is People's Artist of Georgia and of the Russian Federation. She is recipient of Georgian Order of Honor; Georgian Order of Excellence; Russian Order for Oustanding Services to Fatherland; Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity by the President of Italian Republic.

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