|Lasha Khozashvili, a new principal dancer with Boston Ballet, at the troupe’s headquarters, with the John Hancock Building outside the window. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)|
A star turn from new arrival at Boston Ballet
Georgian native Khozashvili to be Prince in 'The Nutcracker'
In person, Lasha Khozashvili has the unpretentious air of the boy next door. Wearing blue jeans and sneakers, his black mop of curls still wet from a post-performance shower and his youthful face in an open smile, Boston Ballet’s newest principal dancer is relaxed and friendly. You might not guess that just minutes before, he seemed larger than life, sailing about the Opera House stage as the warrior Solor in the company’s production of “La Bayadère.’’ His soaring leaps appeared spring-loaded, his legs launching him into jumps that hovered in the air before landing with the softness of a feather. Bold turns spun with an easy, effortless quality. All that and charisma, too.
“Lasha is very technically strong,’’ says Florence Clerc, who choreographed this production of “La Bayadère’’ and coached the dancer in his role. “And he’s very passionate.’’
For Khozashvili, 26, a native of Tbilisi, Georgia, “La Bayadère’’ marked his first starring role in a full ballet with the troupe, and his enthusiasm after the recent performances was palpable. “It was so fun, an amazing feeling. Now I don’t want to stop,’’ he says.
Next up is the company’s much-loved production of “The Nutcracker,’’ in which Khozashvili dances the starring male role of the Prince as well as the “Arabian’’ divertissement.
“He’s a great addition to the company,’’ says Lia Cirio, with whom Khozashvili partnered in “La Bayadère’’ and in a pas de deux from “Don Quixote’’ in the company’s “Night of Stars’’ gala season opener. Khozashvili also danced a brief excerpt from a new work by Helen Pickett for Boston Ballet that night. “There’s a real flash when he’s onstage,’’ says Cirio. “He’s very ambitious when it comes to the bravura parts, which is exciting.’’
Khozashvili caught the ballet bug when he was 10. He had studied piano and violin, but after seeing his older brother in dance performances, he decided to try ballet. He trained at the Chabukiani State School of Ballet Art in Tbilisi before joining the State Ballet of Georgia in 2002. He was promoted to leading soloist in 2004 and subsequently performed most of the leading roles in the company’s repertoire of 29 ballets. Guest appearances have included solos with the Bolshoi Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. He also spent one year dancing in Turkey.
Then Mikko Nissinen, the artistic director, offered him a principal position with Boston Ballet, the first such hire from outside the troupe in four years. Nissinen calls Khozashvili “a phenomenal dancer.’’ He adds, “He’s one of the top male talents out in the world that I could find, and he brings something unique to this company. He’s very experienced, very handsome, very emotionally there with his partners, and he’s not afraid to work. He likes to give everything. And he’s such a polite person. He seemed like a fish in the water with us from week one.’’
Maybe so. But Khozashvili acknowledges it was initially a little daunting. “It’s hard to come into a new company,’’ he says in charmingly accented English. “You don’t know what to expect. But everything that happened to me is just great. I meet very good people, good dancers. I’m so happy that I feel like part of family in this company. I’m making good friends, I feel I know them a long, long time.’’
Cirio adds, “He smiles a lot and has a great sense of humor, is very positive. When he first came into the company, it wasn’t like, ‘I’m this big Georgian [star].’ He wanted to get to know everybody, and he’s become part of the family already. He hangs out with this group of guys, and they’re always joking, being guys. And he’s really happy his wife is here with him.’’
Khozashvili is married to Ekaterine Chubinidze, a new member of the troupe’s corps de ballets. Married for four years, the two met during their student days and grew close as members of the State Ballet of Georgia. “For us, it’s good and easy to work in the same company. It would be really hard if my wife was in some other job,’’ he says.
One of Khozashvili’s most striking traits is his work ethic, which, despite his star status, seems grounded in humility as well as inner drive. “I like to work really hard, put in extra time,’’ he says. “When I finish school and start to do new roles in State Ballet, I work a lot by myself after rehearsals. Teachers saw me work at night and they say, ‘Go home, take time off.’ But if I didn’t work for myself, I don’t think I would be here right now.’’
He is finding inspiration from his Boston Ballet colleagues. “In this company, I see everybody work so hard,’’ he says. “This is really good, gives you feeling to work even more than you did before. I also meet really good répétiteurs who teach me different dance styles and techniques. . . . Every new experience, new repertoire, makes me a better dancer.’’
His personal artistic goal is to be “more real onstage, to show public the story,’’ he says. “I like ballet where there is story and emotion. Without feeling, ballet is just beautiful plastic. . . . I’m always thinking about [expression], and every year I have new ideas, new experience.’’
Although this is just his first opportunity to settle in with an American company, Khozashvili believes, after less than three months, he may have found a place to set down roots for the rest of his career. That could be a decade or more. “I just want to be here to the end,’’ he says with surprising conviction. “I’m thinking it’s really, really good to stay here.’’
When he isn’t dancing, Khozashvili loves hanging out with his friends in the company, drinking beer and playing pool. “Almost every weekend, we are doing something,’’ he says. He adds, once more the guy next door, “I’m really an easy, simple person, never try to pretend to be something special. I’m just a simple guy who likes his job and likes to dance.’’
Karen Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.
Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story about Boston Ballet dancer Lasha Khozashvili misidentified the theater where he performed "La Bayadere." It was the Boston Opera House.