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Boston Ballet's La Bayadère


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I went to the Boston Ballet's production of La Bayadère last night. It was a big disappointment. I was actually shocked at how racist the production is. The dancing was not up to par for the company either. I had been looking forward to seeing Lorna Feijóo as Nikiya - I've never seen her in a major classical role before. Her third act was really wonderful, but the first two acts were only acceptable - there was no drama. Nelson Madrigal wasn't quite up to the part of Solor. Whitney Jensen did a good job as Gamzatti, especially on the turns and pointe work. Isaac Akiba made an excellent Golden Idol (could be a little sharper but it was very athletic and he's just getting started).

Anyways, full review is here: http://itinerantballetomane.blogspot.com/2013/10/disappointment.html

Here's hoping that the Nutcracker is back up to the Boston Ballet's high standard.

Here's also hoping that the next time they perform La Bayadère there are no fakirs.

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I was very disturbed by the racism in the Bolshoi broadcast of La Bayadere. But I assumed that Boston would find a solution for the racist dances / costumes. Apparently they (as in the AD) didn't think it needed any changes.

IMHO it would be simple to switch the fakirs and blackface children (or mini-me indian stereotypes) for some wildlife that is native to India. The Fakirs could become wild striped tigers, and the children could become lion tailed macaques or red pandas. The bikini tutus could easily be replaced with proper saris. If the Bollywood stars can dance in them, then I'm fairly sure ballet dancers can as well.

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Just got back from the Saturday evening performance and am happy to report Misa Kuranaga delivered a flawless Act III... Such beautiful musicality, sensitive dancing and sustained moments that stayed expressive instead of circus stunts.

I took my teenage daughter and her friend as a birthday present and we were all so delighted by this production. I was able to get them excellent orchestra seats whereas in NYC for the same price we would be several balconies up... and in NYC at that far away the difference in the level of dancing becomes rather subtle.

The corps delivered a stable, synchronized, and beautiful Shades defilé (is that an incorrect use of that term?)... Particulatly appreciated because the lighting went awry and they were about four girls in before any light found them. (apparently some safety feature of the lights was accidentally tripped and the followspots frantically tried widen and catch the dancers until the lights kicked in... A shame because both the dancers and the lighting - John Cull's - was exquisite.

I hope video was running somewhere because the pas with the long scarf was superb, and I have seen this section falter elswhere. Kuranaga had a way of finishing each pirrouette with a balance that was more of a retard than a balance...

Jeffrey Cirio was showing his excellent floating elevation at every opportunity.

The little dancers with the Golden Idol fairly stole the show from Aidos Zakan... Usually I cannot stand this part (not the idol but rather his dancers) but they were really wonderful. They were not in black-face. Manu's (Dalay Partondo) water variation was cute with the two little girls, but I was not as happy with their stage presence as with the Idol's children... It was charming to think, though, that this was the role Larissa Ponomarenko danced as a child with the Kirov (she told us so during the pre-curtain talk, and it was nice to hear the company referred to by its "old" name). Melanie Atkins was the children's ballet mistress.

The shades corps was truly impressive. I doubt very much there were more than one, maybe two, companies in the US who could have pulled this ballet off 30 years ago. Boston is to be commended!

The three shades, however, made me remember that this was still a regional company. They may be strong dancers in other choreography but they were clearly not at their best in this. The second shade variation was pretty good. I cannot name names because there were substitutions called out as the lights went down and I did not manage to save the details.

There was a pre-curtain talk led by the woman who rehearsed the shades (Shannon Parsley), with dancer Dusty Button (memorable name), a Brazilian dancer who does the golden idol some nights (name?) and Larissa Ponomarenko. I wish Ponomarenko had lead the talk... She had the most interesting information and told us about the part of India that the ballet was from.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, Boston Ballet, next time give a demonstration explaining the pantomime... This would be so much more interesting and useful than paint drying statistics! There is so much mime in this show, and while I can follow some of it, more is lost on me... And yet I recognized some of the mime vocabulary from other ballets... It would be something the audience could use again with the next 19th cntury ballet staged...

The set was so worth seeing in person, so worth going into the theater... We don't get that in the companies that hit the noverdity tours, of course, it's not possible, so it was so refreshing to see it here... though perhaps some work vould be done to improve the fire... One wants it to spark up or do domething dramatic durng the High Brahmin's final mime scene... The music calls for something more, but we don't see it.

Although this staging comes from the Paris Opera, it is not Nureyev's. I think I prefer the golden Idol to sit like a statue and surprise us rather than dance in. But I wish the precurtain talk had given more information about what sources Florence Clerc drew from... Did she visit archives?

Kuranagawa is such a beautiful lyric dancer, with such nice line, that it is jarring when her elbows contort in hyperextension... I understand that is very difficult for the hyperextended body types to sense when they have gone past straight, but this struggle is what they get in exchange for those gorgeous arabesques... And she sure has gorgeos arabesques.... I loved her dancing in Act I & II except when her elbows come into it, eother hyper extending or bending too angularly with those little elbow circling movements which play out into wrist circles. But truly, by her third act, all is forgiven she is so ravishing there...

Gamzatti, Kathleen Breen Combes, had her ups and downs... Sometimes her turns made you want to let out a whistle of admiration, but other times her jumps left you flat. Her Italian Fouettes were worthy of a competition, however, worth seeing, so stunning where her suspended balances...

So many of the costumes were lovely but I just do not understand Gamzatti's tutu... It looked trimmed with a Christmas tinsel garland.

Jeffrey Cirio's double Cabrioles were wondrous and his friends deported themselves well. It was so nice to see the arc of his jump when he danced with Nikiya... Some danseurs hardly go any higher than their ballerina but Cirio showed how masculine technique differs from feminine technique and the ballet was richer for it.

I really wished the choreography for the girls with the parrots had taken into consideration more which arm was waving about.

The Fakirs were rather good, but I felt their choreography showed so much of the Goldon Idol's moves that it kind of took away from him. Aidos Zakan did some fine work in his leaps, well enough to make anyone happy, but there were times I wished his arms were supported by his back. (isn't there some old Limon quip about "How does one spell beautiful arms?": "B A C K". Occasionally this was a weakness in Cirio as well but only in a handful of places, mostly he supported his port de bras beautifully.

Arms are a sore spot, an issue for 21st century dancers trying to live up to 19th century ideals... And for the most part the Boston Ballet dancers did so much better than I would have expected... Trouble comes when speed is involved... Then the grace vanishes. Probably looks good slicing through contemporary ballet moves but not so much here.

Ok. Can we talk about the fakir's dance at the engagement party? Surely this is a 20th century addition. One keeps exoected Fay Wray and King Kong to emerge. Couldn't this be replaced with something better without betraying Petipa?

Also, one of the variations, I think it was a shade but perhaps it was in Act II, the music called for a step to be repeated a third time but always the dancer ran instead... it made no sense... I wonder if anyone who saw the how knows what I'm talking about here. I'm tempted to hunt the variation down on yourube and see if this the usual staging, but the hour is already overlate. Ok... found it, (

) though I don't think it was the second variation in Boston, or at least not the shade who dances in the middle of the tro formation. It is the transitional phrase out of the cabrioles... And it is slightly different blocking in Osipova's version but she also only does it twice before breaking into a run, except she blurs it a little better with a pretty little sauté before the run... In Boston's it just sermed to stop & run. Could be there was a sauté there too, but mostly one just heard the musical motif repeating as the dancer ignored it and ran. Perhaps if the run were as beautiful as the step it would work better, but it was a beautifully defined step and than just n ordinary run. I do think the dancer made more of the step than Osipova does here, so maybe it was just the contrast in focus that jarred. Would love to have someone knowlegable explain.

Hunting for that variation and coming across the wrong ones reminded me how much I loved Gamzatti's friends in green... There was a pair that reminded one of Osipova's lightness and her returning elevation as focus of feminine dancing when it had been languishing at the end of the 20th century as flexibility became dominant. It's nice to see both again!

Last but not least, my daughter said the cello solo was gorgeous, positively dreamy. So nice to have a live orchestra even if the audience can't seem to suppress it's need to chatter during the intre'act.

I kind of longed for the closure of an Act IV, this white act seems to call for vengeance unlike Giselle, Sylphide or Swan Lake.

A couple of the temple dancers could have pounded their pointe shoes a little more before the performance... Most of the dancers were softly silent, making the low level clatter of the few who did not more distracting.

It seemed as if Clerc did not want to emphasize the opium smoking. I'm not ure how I feel about that. I certainly don't care for opium being romanticized in front of teens in the audience, but on the other hand it is the justification for the kingdom of the shades vision and the piece holds together better dramatically if this is well illustrated...

My apologies for nitpicking. When a production is so close to perfect one wants to brush off that last little imperfections... Were it overall mediocre one would just focus on the few bright moments. This production was the former.

It looked sold out in te orchestra, no idea how the upper seats sold, and this during the third game of a Red Sox world series. If there are seats left, take the whole family.

I do rather wish I could see the version being done this weekend by the Joffrey in Chicago... I understand they have live snakes for theirs....

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PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, Boston Ballet, next time give a demonstration explaining the pantomime... This would be so much more interesting and useful than paint drying statistics! There is so much mime in this show, and while I can follow some of it, more is lost on me... And yet I recognized some of the mime vocabulary from other ballets... It would be something the audience could use again with the next 19th cntury ballet staged...


I do rather wish I could see the version being done this weekend by the Joffrey in Chicago... I understand they have live snakes for theirs....

Pacific Northwest Ballet did a very nice job of "explaining the mime" with their production of Giselle in 2011 -- it's one of those things that audiences will respect if they are introduced to it thoughtfully, but if they don't get any kind of information, they're often at a loss.

But yes, live snakes!

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