Synetic Theater: Transformation Through Movement
Paata Tsikurishvili understands just how much can change in the course of a person’s lifetime. Tsikurishvili, originally from the country of Georgia, is a former freedom fighter turned physical theater choreographer and co-founder and director of Synetic Theater in Arlington, VA.
Tsikurishvili became a freedom fighter in the 1990s as Georgia became the first republic to resist the Soviet Union’s rule at the time. Throughout these years of tumult and unrest, Tsikurishvili never lost sight of his passion for theater and dance that began when he was a boy.
From the early age of nine years old, Tsikurishvili remembers his first time watching professionally trained physical actors. It resonated with Tsikurishvili and in spite of his parents’ hesitancy he signed up for classes and was fully committed to learning physical theater from that moment on.
“It was wordless and I fell in love and asked my parents to sign me up for classes. They kind of laughed at me because it involved a lot of dancing and they had expected me to become a teacher.”
By the time Tsikurishvili went to college, he was highly experienced and impressed his teachers. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Tsikurishvili immigrated to Germany and acquired a Master’s Degree in film directing. This was Tsikurishvili’s first exposure to Western culture – a contrast to his familiarity with Eastern culture up until that point in time.
“I was a part of an experimental group where we trained in artistic disciplines including movement, dance, choreography – a synthesis of the arts. That is where I came up with the word synetic. I combined the words synthesis and kinetic and created a hybrid word synetic because that encompasses what we do. We are visual storytellers through movement, that is our strength.”
For many years Tsikurishvili dreamed of coming to America. He remembers climbing trees to find a radio signal so he could listen to the Voice of America radio station because international radios were blocked by the Soviet government. Finally, in 1995, Tsikurishvili moved to Dallas, TX and in the next few years he co-founded two studios. By 2001, Tsikurishvili moved to Virginia with his wife Irina, and together they founded Synetic Theater, the United States’ first physical theater.
Tsikurishvili acknowledges that many people do not know what physical theater really entails. It can be described as “a genre of theatrical performance that encompasses storytelling primarily through physical movement.” In many ways through his training and understanding of Eastern and Western culture Tsikurishvili felt that he was blending perspectives through his artistic expression.
He describes the atmosphere in the theater as cinematic with the use of modern technology, music and props to create the backdrop for each setting. “Everything moves and transforms on set like the movies, it is constantly changing. There is a dynamic, emotional and visual flow, unlike any other theater in the country,” said Tsikurishvili.
“It took me some time to figure out what musical theater is in this country. I went out to see how other theaters around the country were functioning and what methods they were using. I found my window of opportunity and started a premiere physical theater.”
Synetic Theater’s first production was Hamlet…the rest is silent, an iteration of Shakespeare’s classic with no speaking parts. In the original play, Hamlet’s last words are ‘the rest is silence…’. which served as the inspiration for Tsikurishvili’s art direction for the first performance. Initially people were outraged by the thought of having a Shakespearean-based production without words. There was a lot of resistance, but after the first showing of the production, the Washington Post wrote an article saying, “this is the Hamlet we know.” After that, Tsikurishvili had the confidence to pursue his creative theater style.
“When we are in the production process we are like painters metaphorically speaking. I am a painter using technology, choreography and the actors’ talents to paint the live pictures. Every scene is like a painting because one image can say a thousand words.”
With over 90 classical productions, Tsikurishvili has directed and produced the most physical theater productions in the world. Much of his inspiration has stemmed from the founder of American ballet, a fellow Georgian, George Balanchine, who Tsikurishvili noted, is often mistaken for being Russian. From the beginning the Synetic Theater vision was to become America’s premiere physical theater and that is what it has achieved in its nearly 30 years of performances. As the stage and horizon broadens, Tsikurishvili said a greater vision is to become internationally renowned and to train and cultivate the next generation of physical theater actors, producers and artists.
Discover the magic of a physical theater performance by Synetic Theater today!