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American Ballet Theatre: La Bayadère 2010

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American Ballet Theatre

La Bayadère 2010
Metropolitan Opera House

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Clinton Luckett, Nancy Raffa
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 21, 2010

(Read More ABT Reviews)

Conductor: David LaMarche
(See an Interview with David LaMarche on the Season’s Ballet Scores)

La Bayadère (1980): Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritini, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by Toshiro Ogawa, Production Coordinator, Dina Makaroff, Performed by Paloma Herrera as Nikiya, a temple dancer, David Hallberg as Solor, a warrior, Gennadi Saveliev as The Radjah Dugumanta, Hee Seo as Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter, Roman Zhurbin as The High Brahmin, Kelley Boyd as Aya, Gamzatti’s servant, Craig Salstein as Magdaveya, Head Fakir, Anne Milewski and Isabella Boylston as lead D’Jampe Dancers, Renata Pavam, Simone Messmer, and Melanie Hamrick as lead Shades, Joseph Phillips as The Bronze Idol, and the Company as The Fakirs, The Temple Dancers, Solor’s Friend, The Warriors, D’Jampe Dancers, Waltz, Pas d’Action, The Shades, The Candle Dance, Flower Girls, Warrior Attendants, Palace Slaves, and Priests.

Nikiya, an Indian temple dancer, is betrayed by the High Brahmin, who desires her to despair. The Brahmin is thwarted by Solor, a warrior, whose photograph symbolizes him as the object of desire for Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter. The High Brahmin tips off the Radjah, whose daughter is now affianced to Solor, that Nikiya is romantically involved with Solor. The Brahmin shows the Radjah Nikiya’s silky scarf. The Radjah and Gamzatti arrange for Nikiya to be bitten by a snake in a flower basket, as Nikiya dances at Gamzatti and Solor’s pre-wedding festivities. Nikiya refuses the Brahmin’s bottled antidote and falls lifeless, when she sees Solor and Gamzatti leave, holding hands. Solor, consumed in grief, smokes opium and envisions 27 Shades, all in ghost-like resemblance to Nikiya. A Bronze Idol dances in rapid exultation to herald the wedding. Solor, however, remembers Nikiya’s vision as he prepares to marry Gamzatti, and this vision re-appears at the ceremony, prior to a candle dance. But, soon the gods are angry, and the temple and guests are buried in the temple’s implosion. Finally, Nikiya and Solor re-unite in the after life. (Based on Program Notes).

Unexpectedly, I found tonight’s production of La Bayadère to be one of the best and most magnetic of the Bayadère performances I’ve ever seen, and there have been many, ever since Natalia Makarova first choreographed this work, based on her Kirov Ballet training and pursuit of ballet history. One striking attribute of this cast was Hee Seo in the role of Gamzatti, who poisons her rival, Nikiya, with a snake in a flower basket, during a temple dance to honor Gamzatti and Solor’s upcoming wedding. Ms. Seo exuded an indignant attitude that emanated throughout the three Acts. She maintained this indignity from her first meeting with Nikiya, in a room in the Radjah’s palace, to her last, as Nikiya arrives at the wedding as an apparition. Nikiya is there to haunt Solor, the conflicted warrior, as he walks up the temple steps amidst the ceremonial nuptials. Ms. Seo’s theatricality was riveting and righteous, one of the evening’s pleasant surprises. David Hallberg, as Solor, was expectedly intense and driven, but tonight especially zealous and powerful in the role.

Mr. Hallberg’s pas de deux with Ms. Herrera, as Nikiya, pulsated with ardor and urgency. His torment, after romancing Nikiya, then confronting Gamzatti, his affianced, was worthy of silent film dramatics, plus virtuosic dynamism. In his tent, smoking opium, Mr. Hallberg’s Solor moves with the leaden weight of grief, in advance of his hallucination of the twenty-seven Shades, all in Nikiya’s form. In the Act III temple scene, Mr. Hallberg is fascinating, as he shifts from the reality of the wedding to the realm of the supernatural Nikiya, darting about to frenzied distraction. But, the biggest surprise of the evening was Paloma Herrera’s Nikiya, so unusually vulnerable, so metamorphosed into her role. Ms. Herrera expressed persuasive longing and infatuation for Solor, with incredible theatricality. The expansiveness of her dance never overwhelmed the cast or corps, but she, as Nikiya, was mesmerizing and monumental. Her death dance was enthralling, but the final temple scene, as she darts about in surreal stealth, as her own ghost, driving Solor to throes of remorse, was incandescent.

Craig Salstein, as Magdaveya, head fakir, spun, crawled, and leapt about, not in isolation, but rather in devoted support of cast and audience, a Greek Chorus of one. Roman Zhurbin, as The High Brahmin, is the quintessential scorned power, who brings down the temple onto the betrothed and his worshipers, an act of vengeful calamity. When he spies Nikiya, the object of his jealous torture, in the garden with Solor, his subsequent aside with the Radjah, sealing Nikiya’s fate, becomes a Shakespearean moment. Joseph Phillips, as the Bronze Idol, reminded me of Julio Bocca in the original role, with catapulting turns and a dash up the temple steps. Gennadi Saveliev, as the Radjah, was very well cast, as he’s best in secondary, seething roles, with Tybalt, Hilarion, and Von Rothbart as his other great characters that come to mind. Kelley Boyd, as Gamzatti’s servant, was furtive and surreptitious. Not surprisingly, but always a high point, the Corps, as The Shades, in the Act II Kingdom of the Shades scene, brought down the house. Their existential arabesques, one by one, entering stage right, are danced in magnetic, moonlit delirium. As Solor sleeps, The Shades are breathtaking, especially after minutes of repetitive choreography. The Corps deserves kudos for this stunning performance, with the Act III candle dance another spiritual image of synchronized movement.

Pierluigi Samaritani’s scenery is quintessential India, with the mountains behind The Shades, the fiery cauldron, and the Act III Golden Temple as riveting contextual designs. Theoni V. Aldredge’s costumes, whether the blue/orange/golds of the palace garden attire, or the filmy white Shades attire, are all intriguing. David LaMarche conducted with his inherent joy in the music and attention to the drama of the moment. Kudos to Natalia Makarova for her exceptional and authentic production of La Bayadère.

Paloma Herrera and David Hallberg
in "La Bayadere"
Courtesy of MIRA

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