Below is Culture Whisper's original Four Star Review:
In a compelling new work, interpreted by a group of outstanding dancers, choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh questions the Romantic Western view of the Orient to reimagine Marius Petipa's 1877 classic, La Bayadére.
As the lights go up, a modern day Indian man is sitting on stage typing away on his iPad. He's posting his impressions of a ballet he's been taken to the night before. It's called La Bayadére.
It's set in a mythical he has difficult connecting with. As he introduces the main characters - Nikiya the Temple Dancer, or Bayadère, her lover Solor his promised bride Gamzatti, her father, the absolute ruler - each dancer appears framed by a screen on stage and performs a brief introductory dance.
The plot, he types on, "is pure Bollywood." Nikiya and Solor have pledged eternal love; but Gamzatti is determined Solor will be hers. While dancing for the court, Nykiya is offered a basket of flowers where an asp has been hidden. She's killed.
Overcome with grief, Solor seeks solace in opium. Act II of the ballet consists of his opiumdream, set in the KIngdom of the Shades, where his beloved is multiplied by 32 identical figures dancing in perfect unison. It’s a tour de force for the corps de ballet.
Our modern-day Indian is confused: is this Bayadére Heaven? Heaven? Bayadère?
Shobana Jeyasingh, herself Indian, confesses to having been simultaneously bewitched and seriously unsettled when she first saw Petipa's La Bayadère. On the one hand, there was the sheer beauty of the choreography and the dancing, particularly in Act II. On the other, though, there were the serious distortions of Indian reality, as it was filtered through Western eyes and imagination.
She set about redressing the balance.
So the first part of her new work, Bayadère tells the original story of the ballet in the potted version our modern-day Indian is consigning to his iPad.
The choreography is a skilful blend of references to the classic ballet - a sequence of steps here, a characteristic prop there - and contemporary dance. Her 10 dancers, all classically trained, elegantly poised and with impeccable turn outs, serve her blend of classical, contemporary and occasionally Indian dance to perfection.
Dancing against a background vaguely reminiscent of a forest, their costumes all in tones of metallic grey, their movement has a hypnotic quality.
Section two of the ballet, develops in a dream-like trance. It is Jeyasingh's view of the KIngdom of the Shades, not as Bayadère Heaven but as the wild fantasies of 19th century Europe's Romantic imagination.
She cleverly draws on the writings of the French critic Theóphile Gautier, describing his impressions of a first tour of Europe
by five Indian temple dancers.
A dreamy male voice intones some of his writings. "Bayadère - sunshine, perfume and beauty," Gautier enthused. The dancers, again cleverly reprising some of the most memorable steps of the original, are no longer the Shades of Solor's opium dream, but have become the Shades of Gautier's Romantic longings.
Jeyasingh keeps the dreamy quality of the original Act II. The dancing is utterly mesmerising, the lighting quoting the original moonlit set, but with darker overtones.
The third part of the piece is the most abstract. This is where our modern-day Indian somehow succumbs to the draw of the original story and the myths surrounding it. The dancers are now Shades haunting his own imagination, permeating his own view of the past and present of his own country. The dancing becomes more fevered, disturbed and disturbing.
The score, provided by Gabriel Prokofiev, composer Sergei Prokofiev’s grandson, is itself a skilful blend of classic and modern, Western and Oriental.
This is by any measure a remarkable work: intelligent, thought-provoking, immensely accomplished in its choreography, staging and dancing.
|What||Shobana Jeyasingh, Bayadère: The Ninth Life at Sadler's Wells|
Royal Opera House
Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
16 Oct 17 – 17 Oct 17, 19:30 End time approx.
|Price||£12-£27 (+ booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells' website|