Each time Nina Ananiashvili has appeared on the stage of Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, Mississippi, she has been warmly welcomed by the ballet audience.

Her first appearance was as a 23-year-old dancer participating in the 1986 USA International Ballet Competition. With her partner, Andris Liepa, she made history by being the first dancers from the former Soviet Union to compete in America. She and Andris also were the first winners of the Jackson competition’s highest award, the City of Jackson Grand Prix.

Ananiashvili’s second appearance on the Thalia Mara Hall stage was as a juror, representing her home nation of Georgia, in the 2014 USA IBC. Many in the audience had seen her dance in 1986; others knew her renown as a prima ballerina of both the Bolshoi Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.

On July 16, 2016, Nina Ananiashvili returned as prima ballerina and artistic director of the State Ballet of Georgia.To express her appreciation to Jackson, the USA IBC and its chairman emeritus, William D. Mounger, she made a special addition to the evening’s program. She dedicated her illustrious performance of The Dying Swan to Mounger, who was among the group of Jacksonians who first saw her dance at the 1985 Moscow IBC. Her performance of Marguerite in Marguerite and Armand also was an exquisite vehicle for her strength, grace and emotional depth three decades following her participation in USA IBC III.

The State Ballet of Georgia delighted with Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and Yuri Possokhov’s Sagalobeli. The last piece was followed by a rousing encore that featured Ananiashvili in traditional and manly Georgian attire, proudly displaying her homeland’s flag.

Just as she and Andris had done in 1986, Nina and the State Ballet of Georgia gave a performance from heart and soul, and the Jackson-USA IBC audience will cherish the memory.

Photo by Richard Finkelstein.