Dancing and Drumming: The Journey Begins!

Once again, our Georgian studies program joins forces with the Somerville Arts Council to catalyze a vibrant cross-cultural collaboration among four talented artists. Meet them here, then see them perform.

We are thrilled to share the names of our newest crop of U.S. and Georgian artists for the Exchanging Notes initiative. In 2024, the project’s second year, the organizers — the Davis Center’s Program on Georgian Studies and the Somerville Arts Council — are focusing on the rich and dynamic fields of dance/choreography and percussion/drumming.

This month marks the start of the four artists' in-person collaboration: In mid-June, the dancing/drumming duo from Somerville travels to Tbilisi, Georgia, and sets off across the country to immerse themselves in local culture, to research, explore, and share their creative experiences with their two Georgian counterparts, who are due to reciprocate the visit in September. After the groundwork laid in Georgia and the finishing touches put on in Massachusetts, our quartet will be ready to jointly perform this fall in Cambridge and Somerville. We hope you can join us!

Now, it is with great excitement that Exchanging Notes introduces the artists who will showcase the beauty and strengths of both Georgian and American culture this year — with Afro-Brazilian influences in the mix too! — in an effort to foster understanding and mutual appreciation between their countries and beyond.

Representing Georgia:

Lasha Mdzinarashvilia distinguished dancer, choreographer, and actor/stuntman from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi: Lasha has performed in 36 countries and in 2022 earned the prestigious Taurus World Stunt Award for his work in the film "The King’s Man." He has served as a top performer with the Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili and the Rustavi Ensemble. Currently, he is a choreographer at the Glass Theater and teaches dance at Georgia’s State University of Theater and Cinema.

George Oniani, a renowned percussionist and artistic director of Kutaisi's Junior Folklore School: George co-founded the acclaimed Ensemble GENI, also in Kutaisi, Georgia's third most populous city, and has collaborated with many dance studios and ensembles, including the famous Sukhishvili troupe and Kutaisi's State Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance, a key artistic hub for traditional Georgian culture. George's impressive career began at age five, and he continues to perform with prestigious groups like the Tbilisi Symphony Orchestra.

Representing Somerville, Massachusetts:

Claire Lane, a dynamic dance artist, choreographer, and educator: Claire graduated summa cum laude from Smith College and has trained at P.A.R.T.S. in Belgium and Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London. She is the co-artistic director of detritus dance, a collective that reframes storytelling through a feminist lens. Claire has performed and taught at various highly regarded venues and institutions, emphasizing somatic imagery to inspire curiosity and technical rigor.

Marcus Santos, an internationally renowned contemporary percussionist and educator from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil: Marcus specializes in Afro-Brazilian music and has performed globally, including for the president of Brazil and at TEDx conferences. He has received numerous awards, including the 2024 Outstanding Artist Award from Arts at the Armory in Somerville. Marcus directs the Grooversity network project and has contributed to significant works, including Ken Burns's PBS documentary "American Revolution."

We look forward to the captivating performances that Lasha, George, Claire, and Marcus will co-create, highlighting the vibrant cultural exchange between Georgia and the United States. Stay tuned for more updates on their journey and the final presentation in the Boston area this September!

Events Planner, Davis Center

Laura is the Davis Center's events planner, putting together dozens of seminars, conferences, film showings, exhibits, performances, and other gatherings every year.