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Barbare Tabidze- Metamorphoses: From Shakespeare to Ovid

“Ballet is like writing poetry with your body.”

- Elif Shafak

If someone had asked me before if I would ever go to the ballet performance, I would have said - no. Oh God, how much I regret that "no" right now. But let's get back to the beginning. It all started when our English language teacher Ms. Tamar started the lesson unconventionally and introduced us to the “Shakespearean world”. We knew that Shakespeare occupies a unique position in the world of literature, but the things we learned were more inspiring than we expected. I don’t think I, nor anyone else, can put into words what merit he and his writing have on world literature and the overall English language. Consequently, our interest sparked in English literature, especially “Bard of Avon”.

Considering all the above mentioned, we decided to invite a literary scholar, Professor David Maziashvili to our school. His way of lecturing and communicating with the audience is so impressive and intriguing that it just holds you in, and you don’t want to back out. We talked about Shakespeare, about love, and just life itself. He shared his experiences, and we were so invested in the discussion we didn’t even realize how that much time went by. There was so much left to talk about he invited us to Tbilisi State University, where we had a conversation about Shakespearean influences. After giving another exciting lecture, to our surprise, Mr. David gifted us tickets to attend the ballet performance "Metamorphoses".

The Metamorphoses is a Latin narrative poem written by the Roman poet Ovid. You may question, how Ovid and Shakespeare are connected. One of Ovid’s myths about Pyramus and Thisbe is directly related to the playwright, as he used this myth in “Romeo & Juliet” as well as in “A Midsummer Night's Dream”. Ovid's decision to make myth the primary subject of the Metamorphoses was influenced by Alexandrian poetry. Scholars have found it difficult to place the Metamorphoses in a genre, so the poem was considered an epic.

But let’s go deeper into the ballet performance itself. Mariam Aleksidze, with her amazingly sophisticated choreography, was perfectly able to demonstrate the main idea of the play – the constant change of the world and how the human soul and body can undergo metamorphosis. From the very first beat of the music, I felt shivers go through my body. It was one of the strangest, most extraordinary things I have acquainted in my life. There is a great variety of transformations that take place here, and sometimes you can’t really say what you are watching if you don’t prepare yourself and read the plot or watch the short documentaries about the directing process.

It is worth noting that the ballet consisted of many contemporary elements, including costumes and music. While watching the performance, you can feel a harmonic connection between the past and the present. Even the periodic replacement of classical music with electronic one (Johann Sebastian Bach and Nika Machaidze) is also perceived as another metamorphosis within the performance. Additionally, The Silk Factory Studio, where the play was staged, is quite different from traditional theatre, so we can undoubtedly say that the space has also undergone a metamorphosis.

The play included so many harsh moves, but somehow all the dancers managed to move with the flow and make the performance so ethereal. With every move they made, I felt shivers. I got so lost in the play that I didn’t even realize how an entire hour passed. I swear it felt like minutes! My father once told me: "Ballet directors cannot be bad - they are either good or the best." Back in the time, I couldn't realize what he said. Everything has its pros and cons, right? But now I can. With its choreography and every single move, ballet carries an emotion, a story, a meaning and some kind of tense atmosphere. It may look smooth and impressive but requires lots of physical and mental training. Bad directors or bad dancers can't handle all that complexity.

At the end of the evening, we, the children, and the teacher, lovely Tamar, gathered together and started to discuss the play. All of us were speechless. It was pouring rain, and we were just standing under Lizi's umbrella, trying to express our emotions. The phrase that got repeated the most was: "Oh my God, this was fabulous!"

Bringing up rear, the world undergoes metamorphosis continuously, and we humans transform, too. It’s the way of life itself. We strive for development and change for the better or worse. I’m not a self-confident person, nor a bold one, there was not a single performance in the past I did not mess up, but after experiencing "Metamorphoses", every time I appear on a stage, I remember how amazingly those dancers portrayed the characters, and I get inspired, I might have undergone a metamorphosis myself. So I do believe that everyone who experienced the ballet performance must have felt the same way. Let me finish writing here with the words by Jacques d'Amboise: "Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It's the rhythm of your life. It's the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy and sadness".

Barbare Tabidze

Grade IX, Tbilisi International School

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