Vakhtang Chabukiani


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(b Tbilisi, 12 Mar. 1910; d Tbilisi, 5 Apr. 1992)

Soviet dancer, choreographer, ballet master, and teacher. His early studies were with Maria Perrini in Tbilisi; then from 1926 he attended the Leningrad Ballet School. In 1929 he graduated into the GATOB company (Kirov) and within two years became its leading soloist, a position he maintained until 1941. With his athletic, vigorous style, the Georgian-born dancer came to embody the Soviet ideal of heroic maleness, uninhibited and all-conquering. He created lead roles in many Soviet ballets, including Vainonen's, Jacobson's, and Chesnakov's The Golden Age (1930), Vainonen's Flames of Paris (1932) and Partisans' Days (1937), Zakharov's Fountain of Bakhchisarai (1934) and Lost Illusions (1936), and Lopukhov's Taras Bulba (1940). He also choreographed several of his own including The Heart of the Hills (mus. Andrei Balanchivadze, Kirov, 1938) and Laurencia (mus. A. Krein, 1939). In 1934 he toured the US, becoming, with Tatiana Vecheslova, the first Soviet dancer to do so. In 1941, after war forced the evacuation of many dancers from Leningrad, he returned to Tblisi, and for next 30 years he ran Tbilisi's Paliashvili opera house. There he choreographed and staged numerous works (many featuring powerful roles for himself), including Othello (mus. A. D. Matchavariani, 1957), Poem-Ballet (mus. Liszt and Gershwin, 1963), Hamlet (1971), and The Demon (mus. S. Sinadze, 1961), in which he took the title role at the age of 50. He retired from the stage in 1968. He did much to promote the cause of the male dancer in classical ballet, restaging the 19th-century repertoire in order to boost the function of the man beyond a mere partner. His 1947 production of La Bayadère for the Kirov (created with the help of his old teacher Ponamarev) completely redefined the part of Solor; indeed, the variations seen in most Russian productions now owe more to Chabukiani than to Petipa. His Corsaire is also part of the standard male repertoire. Chabukiani also featured prominently in Soviet ballet films, directing and dancing in Masters of the Georgian Ballet (1955) and Othello (1960), and appearing in Stars of the Russian Ballet (dancing in Flames of Paris, 1946). He taught extensively in the Soviet Union and abroad. People's Artist of the USSR, 1950; recipient Lenin Prize, 1958.

Subjects: Dance.

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