I pulled off my warm fleeces and slipped into the traditional parikaoba shirt. It was too big for me. I glanced at the faded tag: it once belonged to someone Lasha.
A few boys tried to get a fire going in a rusty petchi (i.e. a small tin wood stove balancing on wobbly legs), making more smoke than actual fire. Girls were penning their with stage make-up, clothes were thrown, and the choreographer was yelling at everyone to hurry.
It was the first week of March and the country was hit with a cold snap. I changed in the back of a concert hall nestled in the mountain village of Akhalsheni. Shattered windows let the draft in and the plaster crumbled underneath my feet. More than anything, I would remember the cold.
A dress rehearsal was hastily conducted without a warm-up, without lights, without music, and with nobody in their costumes. I kept thinking about how rehearsals in Canada were serious business, especially in an unfamiliar performance space. The feeling of the ground was different, the size of the space was different, and everyone was tingling with excitement. The warm-up and the dress rehearsal eased everyone’s nerves.
I kept thinking that this wasn’t right, that they weren’t doing it properly. But I reminded myself that they weren’t doing it the way I was used to. With sixteen years of experience under his belt and having won many provincial and national awards, our choreographer knew what he was doing.
Soon, the creaking seats were filled with women and their children. The next day was Women’s Day, and this concert was for them. Performers squinted through cracks in the heavy curtain. Freshly painted faces smiled at cameras, snacks were shared, and everyone clamored for a spot on the dusty mattress lying on the floor.
We were called out to dance, one group after the other: moxeuri, samaia, mtiuluri, khevsuruli.
Finally, it was time for the finale: parikaoba. I stood between curtains, clutching my sword and shield, a little nervous. The choreographer brushed past, muttering a “Get ready, Juba” in Georgian. He had helped me to don my uniform, and taught me how to handle my sword. I though he was more nervous than I was.
The girls smiled and pointed their thumbs up at me. The boys puffed out their chests and throw their shoulders back, urging me to do the same.
As the applause from the previous number faded away, a familiar tune ran through the speakers.
For the curious, here is a promotional video on YouTube highlighting several forms of Georgian dance in a variety of regions within Georgia.