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American Ballet Theatre - La Bayadere
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Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on
May 13, 2004

La Bayadère: Ballet in Three Acts. Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Choreography by Natalia Makarova, after Marius Petipa, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritani, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by Toshiro Ogawa, Production Coordinator, Dina Makarova, Performed by Nina Ananiashvili, Julio Bocca, Ethan Brown, Gillian Murphy, Victor Barbee, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Gennadi Saveliev, Misty Copeland, Erica Cornejo, Renata Pavam, Michele Wiles, and the Company, Conducted by Charles Barker.

Tonight's cast was quite the same as that of the May 2003 Bayadère review. Ms. Ananiashvili and Mr. Bocca were passionate and comfortable in their partnering and theatricality. They did not just portray Nikiya and Solor, but rather WERE Nikiya and Solor. Ms. Ananiashvili's arms undulated in her "Swan-like" fashion, but now as a star-crossed lover. Her Temple dance in the two-piece red costume prior to and with basket of snake and flowers was more than virtuosic, with ever-so-lengthy en pointe work. Mr. Bocca's dancing, in solo bravura leaps and backward, circular turns was of amazing height and buoyancy. He was incredible, after all these years, as I had first known him as the Bronze Idol.

Tonight's Bronze Idol, Herman Cornejo, had the technical skill that seemed to be lacking in Gennadi Saveliev's interpretation last year. He was fiery, spun like a tornado, lifted one leg in angular leaps with lightning speed, and glistened with golden skin to audience accolades. Mr. Saveliev, this time, was Magdaveya, the Head Fakir, and, in this role, he was just right, crawling and feverishly pouncing near fire and the opium couch, prior to the dream of The Shades. Mr. Saveliev kept the eeriness and drama to a pitched momentum. Ethan Brown, as the Radjah Dugumanta, father of the almost bride, Gamzatti, was, as usual, regal and portentous.

Gillian Murphy, once again Gamzatti, was the embodiment of a woman about to marry a man she does not love. Her leg lifts were notable, but she still had that distanced, internalized demeanor, that breeds a cold chill. She and her father, the Radjah, willed Solor from the sensual Nikiya, both through murder by poison snake and then through emotional force, just before the thunderous wedding scene, with Nikiya's vision threatening the nuptials, followed by the vision of yet one more poisoned flower basket, this time almost handed to Gamzatti, the murderess. Sarawanee Tanatanit, as Gamzatti's servant, Aya, was once again in perfect affect and form.

Victor Barbee, as The High Brahmin, seemed a bit less impassioned than last time, but, to be fair, I was seated right, and the Brahmin was usually performing left. At the moment Nikiya tosses the poison antidote, upon seeing Gamzatti lead Solor away from her dance of doom, Barbee threw his fists into the air in despair of his secret beloved's (Nikiya) death. Erica Cornejo (sister of the Idol dancer), Stella Abrera, and Michele Wiles were soloists in The Shades scene, one of the high points in all ballet repertoires. It appeared that Ms. Wiles was experiencing some balancing challenges, but she was elegant in demeanor. Ms. Cornejo was most adept at carrying this white chiffony, visual imagery after the long, hypnotic dream of The Shades (repetitive images of Nikiya, under the influence of Solor's opium). Another nice set of solos was performed by Misty Copeland and Ms. Cornejo.

Of note tonight were virtuosic violin sequences, extended and exquisite solos, I assume by the Concertmaster or perhaps second violin. Charles Barker led the orchestra magnificently in this intoxicating Minkus score. The horns were occasionally subdued, but the overall effect was breathtaking, as breathtaking as La Bayadère. Kudos to Nina Ananiashvili, and kudos to Julio Bocca. And, kudos to the Company as The Shades, The Temple Dancers, dancers in the Waltz, and, of course, the evocative Temple Dancers, candles in hand. American Ballet Theatre is, as always, brilliant.

Nina Ananiashvili as Nikiya and Julio Bocca as Solor in La Bayadère.
Photo courtesy of MIRA

Nina Ananiashvili as Nikiya and Julio Bocca as Solor in La Bayadère.
Photo courtesy of MIRA

Nina Ananiashvili as Nikiya in La Bayadère.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Ellison


For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at