On our last night in Akhaltsikhe, we went with Sean and McKinze and a few other PCVs to a traditional Georgian dance recital. Just before the concert, the heavens opened and it poured. We sat in a cafe across the street and watched people scramble in with umbrellas and newspapers and whatever they could find to shield themselves from the deluge. Finally, a few minutes before the advertized start time, the rain let up and we walked into the theater to find our seats.
The theatre was of Soviet construction. Completely utilitarian and no space wasted on silly things like aisles. There would be no bathroom breaks. Each row spanned the entire room, which was surely filled beyond any (non-existing) fire codes. We sat in the clamor of mothers talking on their cell phones and excited children shouting to one another for about half an hour before the lights dimmed and the hostess for the evening took the microphone and announced the first act. The beginning of the program didn’t actually silence the room; everyone was far too amped up to give their undivided attention to the stage.
I’m not sure what we were expecting. We knew it was a dance recital and it was important enough that they were selling tickets. It turned out to be a genuine treat of almost three hours of dance and song.
Apparently, Georgian dance is a big deal to just about everyone here. The kids, who ranged from what looked like six years old all the way through high school, threw themselves into the choreography with an astounding amount of enthusiasm and precision. Even though we were in a back row, we could see the pride on their faces as they performed their steps. The girls’ slippered feet carried them, floating, in graceful circles and the boys hopped and kicked as fiercely as they could manage. Some of their steps required them to bounce around on the tops of their feet with their curled completely under. We weren’t sure which would burst first — their tortured metatarsals or their parents’ hearts.
A crackly sound system and an out of tune guitar didn’t stop a group of young guys from belting out their patriotic songs. They drew deep breaths and drew up each note from deep in their bellies. The audience recognized every ballad after the first few notes filled the air and they and hollered and clapped along in approval. The singers grinned the entire time, as if they knew how much their friends and sweethearts adored them at that very moment.
We knew the program was drawing to an end when a horde of children bearing bouquets began to gather near the stage. They got closer and closer and eventually some of them started to impatiently climb the stage and group off to the side. There was a false start with the bouquet-giving as half of the deliveries were made after the second-to-last song and some of the dancers had to think quickly to get rid of their blooms before the music started up again.
It was a long evening, but we were completely amazed and impressed by everything. Yet another experience we felt privileged to witness in Georgia, and yet another example of someone showing us how to love something new. It’s the best kind of contagious.
Our time in Scotland was highlighted by a night of music with new friends at Stanely House in Paisley.
We wish we would have got some video of The Murmerers’ lovely harmonies, but luckily someone else did. Marie Collins‘s seventeen-year-old voice wowed us, and brothers Peter Quinn and Martin Quinn, who usually play with guitarist Gary Stuart as the band “Dad, You’re Drunk” put on a great show as well. Perhaps the most truly moving performance of the night was a tribute to fast food mogul Dave Thomas, courtesy of Josh From Texas.
After chilling in a Glasgow pub for most of a drizzly day, we jumped a train to Paisley. A couple of old ladies and their smart phones were able to procure us a cab, which drove us up to Stanely House, where we are staying with a bunch of cool friends of friends of friends of ours (seriously). We sat on the roof of an old mansion with a bunch of people we just met and watched the sun set behind the clouds. Guitar and ukulele were played along to “I’m No Superman” and “Rolling in the Deep”, then a banjo showed up and Alicia joined in for a round of “Wagon Wheel”. Now we’re all watching a mini marathon of the Sherlock Holmes Brit TV series. There are rumors of a trip to Glasgow or even Edinburgh in search of Scotch whiskey in the morrow…