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Sukhishvili dancers | Rob Hurson 

Dancers from the Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet company perform Samaia, a Georgian dance rooted in ancient pagan tradition that has come to represent the transformation of King Tamar, the legendary medieval ruler of the (Christian) kingdom of Georgia.

King Tamar, the first woman to rule that nation in her own right, is its most revered historical figure. She established a pan-Caucasian empire that stretched “from the Sea of Pontus to the Sea of Gurgan, from Speri to Derbend, and all the Hither and Thither Caucasus up to Khazaria and Scythia”—under her command, Georgia became a regional power capable of massive military movement. 

But Samaia is a delicate dance. Three women, clad in traditional medieval Georgian costumes, symbolize Tamar’s evolution: from innocent maiden to wise mother to powerful king.

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