Nina Ananiashvili – Biography


Nina Gedevanovna Ananiashvili was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her father, Gedevan, and two older brothers, George and Levan, were all geologists; her mother, Lia Gogolashvili, a philologist.

The family was once part of the Georgian aristocracy, but their wealth and land vanished with the Russian revolution. Ananiashvili’s father's family was almost completely wiped out in the Stalinist 1930s. He was the only male spared as he was just 2 years old. He became a geologist and married a linguist.

In 1963 their daughter, Nina, was born. She was a sickly child and at the age of 4, her parents started her ice skating in an effort to improve her health. At 10, she became champion in her age group in Georgia. A dance teacher saw how she moved on the ice – in particular her balance and how she used her arms – and had her perform The Dying Swan on skates. Then the teacher took Nina to a theatre and showed her the feathered costume she could wear if she performed it on stage, just like Maya Plisetskaya , the Bolshoi prima ballerina. Nina was hooked.

When she was 13, a Russian ballet official saw Nina perform in The Nutcracker and asked to speak with her parents. It took some prodding, but in the end, they consented to send their daughter to Moscow. Nina’s grandmother retired from her physician career to accompany her granddaughter.

“When I arrived in Moscow, I didn't understand how much I owed to my parents, now I do. When I was getting ready to leave home, my father said to me, ‘Nina, here you are number one; there you may be last, are you ready for that? You will be in a class where everyone is better than you. If you are willing to bear it and to work and get better, then go, but if not, then don't go, for it will be a waste of nerves and health.’ I told him ‘Papa, I don't know, but I have to try. But for now, I cannot tell you whether or not I can bear it,’” recalls Nina.

She remembers having great athletic stamina and always willing herself through to the end. “If I ever started anything, I had to finish it,’’ she says.

If you ask Ananiashvili today when she sensed the otherworldliness of her talent, she will tell you: “Never really.” She does, however, remember the fear of landing in a big city where school was taught in Russian, not Georgian. She got D’s and fell into such a panic that she briefly went blind – she couldn't see the blackboard. Her grandmother sent for Georgian textbooks and began teaching her in both languages, sometimes until to 2 a.m., until the D’s became A’s.

On the ballet front, she recalls her mother visiting the academy ‘and every time, she asked this question of my teacher: 'If she's not so good and not so hard-working tell me – because I will to take her out of the school.' Why waste a spot that could go to a more deserving youngster?“ But the teachers would have none of it. Even so, when Mama was gone, they did not go easy on her. It was the Russian scolding approach to coaching: whatever you do, it's not good enough. ...

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