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American Ballet Theatre - La Bayadere
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Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters: Guillaume Graffin, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova, Georgina Parkinson, Kirk Peterson

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Review by Dr. Robert E. Zlokower
Originally Published on
May 17, 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 Svetlana Zakharova, Jose Manuel Carreño, Carlos Molina, Michele Wiles, Victor Barbee, Erica Fischbach, Craig Salstein, Misty Copeland, Luciana Paris, Anna Liceica, Erica Cornejo, Maria Riccetto, and the Company, Conducted by Charles Barker.

Tonight was high energy at American Ballet Theatre, onstage and in the audience. It was a new look for La Bayadère, with Guest Artist, Svetlana Zakharova from Kiev, Ukraine, in the role of Nikiya, Temple Dancer, partnered by the charismatic ABT Cuban Principal, Jose Manuel Carreño, as Solor, a warrior. Ms. Zakharova danced with a sinewy arched back that almost reached the floor, as she was ecstatically swept into Solor's arms in a torrent of passion. Mr. Carreño has never danced with more chivalry, elevation, or dynamism, and this duo took its audience by storm.

When Ms. Zakharova danced her temple dance, with poisonous snake and fruit basket, she wore a black bra and red pants that were stunning and sensual, and she seemed to exude extreme drama and connection to her imaginary plight. In contrast to Nina Ananiashvili's internalized interpretation, last week, which was, as always, superb, Ms. Zakharova presented a more extreme, externalized sense of longing and vulnerability. Michele Wiles, as Gamzatti, rose to new virtuosic heights, and, in contrast to her unbalanced performance in a lesser role last week, Ms. Wiles exuded confidence and poise, seductiveness and angst, as she competed with Nikiya for Solor's love and commitment. Last week, Gillian Murphy was a cold-hearted, distant Gamzatti, while Ms. Wiles was an enamored, jealous Gamzatti.

Julio Bocca, as Solor in last week's review, was dramatic, with a bravura performance. However, Mr. Carreño, tonight, as he is known to do, played to the audience shamelessly, and they begged for more. This audience connection works to his favor, as his presence and energy become hotter and hotter. Craig Salstein, as Head Fakir, was muscular and incredibly frenetic, but in a theatrical sense, and performed multiple and dizzying spins, in contrast to Gennadi Saveliev's more stylized interpretation last week. Mr. Salstein was reminiscent of a Greek Chorus, but in an animalistic, primitive fashion, warning characters and audience of foreboding intentions and danger. He is developing into quite a dancer to watch.

Herman Cornejo, once again The Bronze Idol, capped the evening with his kinetic charisma and charm, a tiny tornado in gold. Of course, one major highlight of this ballet is the dance of The Shades. As always, it was ethereal bliss, but tonight, with the electricity of a fresh new Nikiya, by a renowned Principal from Russia, the Corps, as well, seemed even more sensual and more extended, with the white, chiffony scarves and staged moonlight.

La Bayadère, a tale of pathos and passion, under Ms. Makarova's original conception and direction, is exotic and wild. Ms. Zakharova and Mr. Carreño are exotic and wild dancers in every sense. Tonight's powerful production of American Ballet Theatre's La Bayadère was very, very special. Kudos to Charles Barker for his attention to the dynamic, orchestral elements, all of which were perfectly tuned and perfectly timed. The horns were brilliant, and the strings were evocative. Kudos to Kevin McKenzie for inviting Svetlana Zakharova to dance the role of Nikiya.


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