Originality Has a Name, and It Is: Salome Pazhava
Updated: Jun 24, 2021
In this post I am going to tell you more about Georgia’s own Salome Pazhava and delve into some of her best routines. Salome is beloved at home and abroad, and she is one to easily spot in a crowd due to her distinct style, artistic expression, and aptitude for storytelling. No single banner can define all, or even a subset, of her routines at once. They are so varied in character, musical choice, artistic approach, and execution that it is hard not to be in awe of this gymnast’s originality and creativity. Her repertoire is a rich tapestry of colours and sounds, each routine carrying its own meaning and charisma because of the sheer effort that has gone into every single detail.
The Magic Lantern
In her work, Salome Pazhava creates worlds that are distant and yet real, and she takes the audience on a journey through space and time, and into a dream. It is not until the final signal, that one is awaken from that dream and brought back to reality. This is her genius. While I watch her routines, I feel very much like what Tarzan must have felt like looking at the images created by the magic lantern in the film Tarzan. He is smitten by the vistas that exist elsewhere but have been reproduced right before his eyes. This is exactly how I understand Salome’s work – as a snippet in time taken from another world, which Salome delivers to her audience. Let’s explore together some of Salome Pazhava’s most memorable routines. I have picked my personal favourites for each apparatus (hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon). Selecting only one routine per apparatus was not an easy task, given that all of Salome’s routines are truly excellent and very different.
Starting with the hoop, I chose Salome’s routine from 2017 and 2018 set to the track ‘In this Shirt’ by The Irrepressibles. The song is critically-acclaimed and featured in several movies. It is an example of the rarely-utilised (in RG) musical genre of ‘baroque pop’ - a fusion of rock and classical music. Typical to the genre, ‘In This Shirt’ uses strings and layered harmonies to create orchestral and dramatic sounding. Salome demonstrates an understanding of this complexity through the expressivity and perfect timing of her body movements, intertwined with the very original use of the apparatus. To put it in more colloquial terms, she ‘feels the music’. I particularly adore her handling of the hoop with her feet in a series of two hand-stand kicks (see GIF), which is also one of her signature moves with the hoop.
My favourite amongst Salome’s ball routines must be the one from 2013-15, set to the ballad Taka, yak ti (One like you) by Ukranian rock band Okean Elzy (Elza’s Ocean). The musical version in Salome’s ball routine is an astonishingly beautiful instrumental which has a more neo-classical sounding than the original and features a violin part. The reason I think this is a terrific musical choice is because of the emotional build-up and increase in intensity throughout the piece, culminating in the violin crescendo at 1:02min. Therefore, there is a sense of development and directionality in the routine which is seldom utilised in RG these days. Salome has the skill to translate the meaning of this love song to the audience through her body movements which are soft and beautiful, and she successfully snatches the viewer’s attention at the right moments. This routine has been designed to be shown, observed, and to bring aesthetic pleasure to the audience. I especially enjoy the part at the beginning of the routine where Salome performs a series of body difficulties and dance steps close to the floor (see GIF) which exemplify beautifully her expression of lyricism. I find myself easily being able to watch this routine again and again.
In her very memorable clubs routine from 2013-16, Salome performs to the song Rachuli, Mokle Kaba by Georgian artists Jgufi Bani. It is traditional music from Georgia where the guitar, ukulele, percussion and accordion come together to create a truly atmospheric piece. In this clubs routine, Salome demonstrates vivid appreciation of her cultural heritage through the musical choice, dance steps and character development, as well as her leotard design. Georgia is a country with immense historical and cultural wealth, and traditional Georgian dancing is a spectacle to observe. Male dancers perform astonishing jumps and create the illusion of flying, while landing on their shins and knees without breaking their legs (seems like an impossible feat!). Female dancers are graceful and swan-like and move as if they are floating in the air. Salome performs a series of kneeling steps (see GIF), and often brings her arms to her chest, which are typical moves in Georgian dancing, among others.
Salome’s leotard for this routine has been crafted to resemble a Georgian folklore dress. ‘Kartuli’ is a traditional floor-length long-sleeved dress which covers the whole body and is often dark-coloured and simple, symbolising humility and modesty (see images here and here). The tight waistline accentuates the female beauty. The ‘kartuli’ can also be adorned with beautiful patterns, as is Salome’s dark-blue velvet leotard embellished with gold and burgundy shapes. The leotard creates an illusion of a white shirt which shows at the neckline, and the sleeves, and bears a high collar adorned with the Georgian red cross which is a national symbol also present on the Georgian flag. In 2016, Salome used clubs which were also decorated with this cross to emphasize her national heritage.
In her ribbon routine from 2018, Salome gets transformed into a samurai – a Japanese warrior from the past. The musical choice is traditional Japanese music piece named Wild Flower II. The musical instruments are notably the Japanese flute (shakuhachi) and percussion instruments (taiko), the combination of which creates a sense of combat and nobility. Salome’s artistic interpretation of a samurai in this routine is convincing and the idea is original and innovative. To complement the theme, Salome wears a black and red leotard, which features an image of a samurai sword on the back, as well as multiple red camellia blossoms which are the symbol of a samurai's noble death in Japanese culture. This symbolism is appropriate for the routine because at the end Salome uses her ribbon stick to perform a ceremonial seppuku – a ritual suicide traditionally performed by samurais.
I hope I have managed to give you an overview of Salome’s unique gymnastics personality through the analysis of these four routines. They all stand out with their own character and idea, but have in common Salome’s emotional delivery and artistic presence on the carpet. I cannot wait to watch the new routines she has created for her 2021 programme. Salome was initially going to perform at the World Cup in Sofia in the end of March, but sadly we will not be able to enjoy her performance there after all. There will be other terrific gymnasts to watch, however, so I am still excited for this event. Let’s hope that the global pandemic situation improves soon, and we get to enjoy watching all our favourite gymnasts at big competitions again.
Thank you for reading.
See you next time,
Edited on 24/06/21 to update multimedia.