The WAC web info portal publishes the story of the legendary folk dance ensemble “Kavkaz”, which is inextricably linked with the life of its creator, Kandid Tarba. 2019 became an anniversary year both for the recently departed Kandid and for the “Kavkaz”.

Said Bargandzhia

May 13th would be the 75 year since the birth of the founder of the folk dance ensemble “Kavkaz”, People's Artist of the USSR Kandid Tarba. It is significant that this year the “Kavkaz” ensemble, which has become bright and legendary, celebrates its 25th anniversary.

A talent that is hard to miss

In 2014, the book “Dance as Life” by a well-known Abkhaz journalist Zaira Tzvishba was published. Page after page edition tells about the fate of an extraordinary dancer, intertwined with the life of the dance group, which he created. The story is about Kandid Tarba and the national dance ensemble “Kavkaz”, and a book appeared on the eve of the last joint jubilee of Tarba and his brainchild: it was when Kandid turned 70, and “Kavkaz” - 20.

Kandid Tarba was born in 1944 in the village of Myku, Ochamchira district of Abkhazia.

Zaira Tsvizhba in her book says that already in elementary grades he participated in amateur art activities in Tkuarchal, where he lived with his sister Mary and went to school. There, in Tkuarchal, he was noticed by the national artist Georgy Shakaya, who then led the town’s song and dance ensemble. It happened in 1961 - and literally a year later Kandid was invited by Razhden Gumba himself to the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble of Abkhazia (Honored Art Worker of the Georgian SSR, People’s Artist of Abkhazia, Dmitry Gulia State Prize Winner. The State Philharmonic of Abkhazia is named after him - ed.).

A few years later, Kandid Tarba, who was very young, 19-year-old, at that moment, was awarded the title of Honored Artist of Abkhazia for the masterly performance of Caucasian dances. In one of the interviews, many years later, the dancer admits that he did not expect to receive such a high reward at that age.

People's Artist of Abkhazia Violetta Maan, who knew Kandid from her youth, remembers him with great warmth and pain of loss.

“It is still difficult to believe that he is not with us,” she says. Tarba was not only an outstanding dancer, but also an excellent friend, Maan assures, and over the years became her relative too.

“He married my husband’s niece, Nonna Kurua, and since then we have also become a family,” says the artist.

The friendship of Kandid and Violetta began immediately after their joint tour of the Baltic coast in 1967. Maan was then invited to host the concert program of the State Song and Dance Ensemble, in which Tarba danced.

“I knew about him before, but we became close friends after the tour. He always lingered after the rehearsals in the hall in order to once again rehearse the scene, hone this or that movement. Kandid put his whole soul into the dance,” says Violetta Maan.

She recalls that Kandid’s talent was hard to miss. Thus, in 1968, Tarba was enrolled in the State Academic Folk Dance Ensemble of Georgia under the leadership of People’s Artists of the USSR Nino Ramishvili and Iliko Sukhashvili.

“Everyone dreamed of dancing in this group, which was known and far beyond the borders of the Soviet Union. And our Kandid has deservedly become part of the ensemble, with which he traveled almost half of the world,” says Maan.

In addition to talent, he was helped by perseverance and efficiency. He was very consistent in his development. Figuratively speaking, every step and every dance movement led Kandid to the “Kavkaz” - the pinnacle of his work and the cause of his whole life.

“Go ahead, old man!”

Kandid’s brother, Arvelod Tarba, the current chief artistic director of the “Kavkaz”, recalls that his older brother had long dreamed of his ensemble. During the 1992-1993 Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia, he seriously thought about creating a team that would bring together the best dancers from all over the Caucasus. Just a month after the end of the war, Kandid shared his idea with the head of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, Mussa Shanibov, who warmly supported it. The decisive word remained with Vladislav Ardzinba - then the Supreme Commander and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Abkhazia, and a bit later - the First President of the Republic. Tarba addressed him, as he later said in one interview, “without thinking twice.”

“He listened to me, looked with an approving smile and said: “Go ahead, old man!” recalled Tarba.

Of course, the creation of the “Kavkaz” was preceded by a lot of hard work, meetings and negotiations, and most importantly - the search for dancers. For this purpose, says Arvelod Tarba, after the approval of the idea by Vladislav Ardzinba, Kandid left for the North Caucasus.

“This idea (to assemble the “Kavkaz”- ed.) became the meaning of his life. He really got very excited about it. Day and night, he was thinking about the ensemble,” says Arvelod, recalling how his brother immediately invited the South Ossetian dancer Nodar Pliev, already legendary at that time, to work in the “Kavkaz”.

“In total there were 25 people in the team, with only me from Abkhazia,” smiles Arvelod Tarba.

Both young and already well-known dancers got into the ensemble. Among them were Ruslan Abdokov and Marina Hatsukova from Adygea. Muradin Khadzhaev, also from Adygea, was already known as a ballet master-tutor, then a dancer already known not only in his homeland, but also throughout the Caucasus. By the way, Muradin is the father of today's artistic director of the State Academic Folk Dance Ensemble of Adygea “Nalmes” Aslan Khadzhaev, who once danced himself in the “Kavkaz”.

The triumph of the unknown ensemble

So, the composition was completed. Hard work began, hours of rehearsal: everyone needed to get to know each other closer, to feel in which direction to go. Then came one of the main days in the life of the ensemble - a performance before the audience. Of course, then the “Kavkaz” will have a lot of high-profile performances and grandiose concerts in Abkhazia and beyond its borders, a lot of endless applause, but that first concert for “Kavkaz” dancers was remembered forever.

It was the year 1994. Abkhazia, not yet recovered from the wounds of war, suffering from its dead sons, was in need of consolation, eager to take a sip of living water of hope and joy, which was the very concert of the “Kavkaz”.

“The first anniversary of the victory in the Patriotic War of the people of Abkhazia, September 30, 1994. Our first performance. We were very worried, nervous, did not what the audience’s reaction would be. We are an unknown ensemble at that time, which gave us even more excitement. The concert was at the Republican Stadium, we performed a potpourri from the dances of the peoples of the Caucasus. It was a huge success,” Arvelod Tarba recalls with pride.

3000 meters of fabric from Turkey

Of course, when the “Kavkaz” just started performing, there were big problems with the costumes. Leaders of the ensemble literally collected “a little bit from everybody”. Arvelod Tarba says that with the support of Vladislav Ardzinba, Kandid went to Turkey for fabrics for suits.

“The Abkhaz Diaspora in Turkey, namely Irfan Argun, Jamalettin Ardzinba and Makhinur Papba, helped us a lot. Kandid then by ship brought almost three thousand meters of fabric worth more than 25 thousand dollars. I remember how we, unloading all this, could not rejoice in our happiness,” says Tarba.

He says that while his brother was in Turkey, the then Prime Minister of the Republic Gennady Gagulia gave the ensemble ... a state status. It happened almost only within a year after its creation!

Russia, Turkey, Germany ...

The first foreign tours of the “Kavkaz” were to Turkey in October 1995. The band was fully prepared to conquer the hearts of the audience, including representatives of the Abkhaz-Abaza Diaspora.

“We had to sail on October 22 at 10 am on the “Ritsa” ship (passenger ship on the route Sukhum - Trabzon - ed.), however Georgians began to hinder our trip,” says Arvelod Tarba.

The first foreign tours of the “Kavkaz” were to Turkey in October 1995

According to Arvelod Tarba, this issue was resolved by Vladislav Ardzinba, who conducted the negotiations in Moscow.

“I do not know with whom he spoke there, but we managed to get to Trabzon, where we were met by representatives of the Abkhaz-Abaza and Circassian Diasporas of Turkey.  It is noteworthy that subsequently the ship “Ritsa” after these events was no longer functioning” he added.

Tours in Turkey were held in 16 provinces until November 18, 1995.

After those tours, “Kavkaz” did not go anywhere for four years, but the regular rehearsals and regular concerts in Abkhazia continued.

In 1999 they were awaited by one of the most famous halls of Moscow - the Tchaikovsky Great Concert Hall - and a great success there. Representatives of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Moscow Abkhaz Diaspora headed by Taras Shamba (he served in 1992–2017 as head of the International Association of the Abkhaz-Abaza People (IAAAP, the original name of the World Abaza Congress) - ed.).

Also in 1999, the “Kavkaz” received an invitation to the international festival of folklore dance of European states, which was held in the German city of Balingen.

“We didn’t think we could go, but Alexander Ankvab helped us (Abkhaz state and political figure, the third president of the Republic – ed.). We had passports of the no longer existent Soviet Union, but he somehow solved this problem, and we took part in the festival,” says Arvelod Tarba.

He admits that the memories of those first concerts “warm the soul the most.” Later, winning the hearts of the audience and becoming world famous at prestigious dance competitions, the team traveled half the world.

“Dance is for life”

Kandid Tarba died three years ago - in May 2016. Founder and artistic director of the State ensemble of folk dance of the Republic of Abkhazia “Kavkaz”, People's Artist of the USSR, holder of the II degree Order of Akhdz-Apsha, holder of the Russian Order of Friendship of Peoples, he left behind a huge legacy that today his younger brother multiplies.

The “Kavkaz” ensemble continues the traditions established by the founder and the first dancers. Its repertoire includes many bright dances, most of which are a lifetime. The “Dance with daggers” performed by the male part of the team still causes special delight among the audience. In the constant program of the ensemble, there is “Gorsky dance”, “Pereplyas”, “Kavkaz” dance and many others.

After each concert of the “Kavkaz”, the audience still has a special “aftertaste” for a long time. Many famous dancers, who saw the performances of the ensemble from the side, note the clarity of the performance of movements, along with the artistry of the performers. The “Kavkaz” has been and remains one of the most prominent Caucasian dance ensembles.

Created immediately after the war, it became a hope for all the people, a confirmation that the celebration of dance and the celebration of life are possible. The “Kavkaz” has never put an end to its work, just turning over the pages of history, replacing one generation of the best dancers with the new one.

“We continue touring. Young people’s (young dancers - ed.) eyes are burning, just as ours once. Dance is for life,” smiles Arvelod Tarba.

Very soon, the dance group will conquer new peaks. It is expected in Rostov, Krasnodar and Vladikavkaz, and in Abkhazia it will perform in September this year with a big jubilee program, old and new dances, which, no doubt and as always, will penetrate into the very soul of the viewer.