La Bayadère brings together all the widespread perceptions of India in the 19th century — a country of fakirs, lotuses, and snake charmers. The main characters are a devadasi, or temple dancer, and a gallant warrior, whose love is destroyed by the will of a powerful raja. However, the appeal of the ballet, which had its beginnings on the Russian Imperial stage, does not just lie in its oriental exoticism, fiery dances, fake elephants and tigers or solemn priests. The enchanting feature of the ballet is the magical contrast between the bustle of lavish festivities and the lofty aloofness of the famous Kingdom of the Shades, whose gentle melancholy is unequalled in its level of poetic synthesis.
The traditional version that has taken shape in the 140 years since the ballet was first performed requires a combination of refined, impeccable, academic dance and a subtle psychological interpretation of the role, with a strong individual acting talent. Today the production is a symbol of the permanence and continuity of the Russian ballet school’s traditions and continues to be one of the highest achievements in choreography.
Materials by Mikhailovsky Theatre.