Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Technically Expert, but Emotionless

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Technically Expert, but Emotionless

Article excerpt

'La Bayadere" a seminal work by choreographer Marius Petipa, premiered in 1877 as a grandiose production by the Bolshoi Ballet that portrayed the exotic mystery of India and the impossible love between a sacred dancer and a warrior.

But it was virtually unknown in the West until 1961, when a young Rudolf Nureyev performed the third act's "Kingdom of the Shades" while on a Kirov tour to Paris. Later, Nureyev restaged the work as director of the Paris Opera Ballet. The production premiered in 1992 and marked his final public appearance; within a year he was dead of AIDS.

Thanks to a series of live transmissions from top ballet companies around the world, those of us unable to purchase a ticket to Paris were allowed a look at the Nureyev version last weekend. (There is an encore broadcast tonight at 7.) Having done so myself, I can unequivocally say this is a ballet for a die-hard traditionalist who doesn't mind a little political incorrectness and isn't looking for much emotional impact.

Nureyev drew on Petipa's notes, the Ludwig Minkus score and spectacular sets (by Ezio Frigerio) to tell the story about Nikaya (a "bayadere," or temple dancer, portrayed by Aurelie Dupont), whose love for Solor (Josua Hoffalt) is thwarted by a high brahmin who falls in love with her himself and a rajah who chooses Solor to be his daughter Gamzatti's (Ludmilla Pagliero) fiance. Nikaya meets an untimely demise but, as in any good story ballet, is reunited with her love in the afterlife for eternity.

Acts I and II are full of colorful costumes, oversized sets and the almost campy bent knee/flexed hands/elbows akimbo stances meant to imply the dances of India. The scenes of fakirs in masks and feathered headdresses hopping around athletically and the group of small boys in blackface are enough to make present-day observers squirm, but at least the character dancing gave some liveliness to a workman-like beginning. …

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