it seems that men in ballets have this nasty habit of pledging their eternal love to women just out of their social circle (or species), creating all sorts of drama and heartache. happily, their poor judgement makes for some damn fine ballets and la bayadere is no exception.
in short(-ish), la bayadere is the story of the love between solor, a handsome tiger killing warrior, and nikiya, a beautiful temple dancer. somewhat unfortunately for solor, his unparalleled tiger slaying skills deem him worthy of the rajah’s daughter, gamzatti. this would be fine he if hadn’t only just pledged eternal love to nikiya in front of the gods and all that. but hey, at least gamzatti is a stunner (plus she’s super wealthy) and since her dad is not someone you can really say no to, solor agrees to marry gamzatti, even tho his heart is elsewhere.
nikiya is summoned to dance at gamzatti and solor’s engagement party, which must be a bit awkward for everyone involved, however her beautiful, heartbroken variation here is quite possibly my favorite female variation in all of classical ballet. at some point previously gamzatti had found out about solor and nikiyas secret love, and when bribing nikiya away didn’t work gamzatti decided to have her killed using that old trick of hiding a poisonous snake in a basket of flowers.
solor, now grieving and guilt ridden, smokes a bit of opium to ease his pain and dreams of reuniting with nikiya in the kingdom of the shades. well, if this breathtaking, ethereal dancing is what one envisions while under the spell of opium – hey, i’m about willing to give it a try because that was an enormous amount of gorgeous for one trip! (Just kidding – drugs = totally not my thing). the kingdom of the shades features some of the most beautiful work for the corps de ballet ever made, as well as stunning pas de deux and variations for nikiya and solor.
well, anyway, eventually poor solor wakes up and has to face reality – nikiya is dead and he is to marry gamzatti. alas, he is terribly conflicted as he cannot shake the image of his beloved nikiya, even at his wedding she is constantly invading his thoughts. but eventually he must give in and bows down to pledge his life to gamzatti, an act which infuriates the gods (i guess because he’s already pledged his love to nikiya and once you pledge, that’s it! there will be no changing of plans!) who unleash all their angry god powers causing the temple to collapse and kill everyone in sight. solor and nikiya are reunited in heaven, and they live happily ever after. the end.
(i’ve left out some bits but that’s the story more or less).
so, last saturday night my lovely friend jacquie and i went to see ABTs fantastic production of la bayadere at the Met, along with some young ballet students who had never before been to the opera house. the cast we saw featured misty copeland as gamzatti, alina cojocaru as nikiya and…..surprise! herman cornejo as solor. (i know, i know….don’t i ever see anyone else?! blame jacquie- she’s the one who wanted to see him, she practically had to drag me there)! 😉
misty started out just brilliantly, the mime scene where gamzatti tries to bribe nikiya was very powerful and misty was every inch the entitled aristocrat but unfortunately i wasn’t quite as blown away by her in the betrothal pas de deux and variations. i mean, of course she’s fantastic but often she would end a phrase with an overdone flourish of the arm, which i found unnecessary. also, her jumps and releve’s seemed a bit labored, as if she was muscling them a bit instead of riding on the rhythm of her plie. her acting, however, was excellent.
alina, oh lovely alina, was a breath of fresh air, a poem, an angel. i loved her. from a girl in love to a desperate, heartbroken young woman, to an ethereal beauty – she drew me in and kept me there. she has beautiful lines, spirit, musicality and fantastic, soaring leaps! i like her very much with herman and can hardly wait to see them dance together again.
Ok, and then there’s herman cornejo. i mean, what can i even say that i haven’t said in previous posts- i am running out of laudatory adjectives. now is his time, this is his moment. he is in his prime and dancing with great confidence, virility, beauty and depth and i am further blown away every time i see him perform. (and i’m not just saying that because i maybe have a crush on him either, so shut up). he makes one hell of a noble warrior and he and alina together are magical.
also noteworthy ~
sarah lane dancing the first shade variation was perfection. As always, sarah was clean, sparkling, classical and tasteful. why ABT doesn’t promote her to principle is beyond me.
the shades, of course! unfortunately from where we were seated we lost a corner of stage right so we didn’t get the full effect of the shades but from what i saw they were wonderful.
the harp! heavenly!
arron scott as the bronze idol. while he wasn’t perfect (a little bit of an awkward turn series) overall he was sharp and looked very good. i really like arron and hope he will continue to get soloist roles.
the gorgeous costumes.
roman zhurbin as the high brahmin (who is also in love with nikiya and wants to have solor taken out). roman is always fantastic.
catherine hurlin- as much as i tried to watch other dancers i found myself constantly drawn to her in the wedding scene corps dances. she has a lovely presence 🙂
annnnd….i have to mention that we were delighted to spot Sting (STING!!! OMG!) in the audience chatting with alessandra ferri! that’s a hell of a lot of awesome right there.
the delight of the young ballet students seeing their first live professional ballet performance. “that was the most beautiful thing i’ve ever seen in my life”! seemed to be the general feeling amongst them 🙂
sharing this amazing, incredible, fantastic experience with my friend jacquie, who is as giddy, childlike and mushy about it all as i am 🙂