Thursday, June 26, 2008

La Bayadère

As usual, I go to the ballet and find myself conflicted. I don't know much about Russian, or for that matter French, Orientalism, but the British thought that India had a glorious past but had grown corrupted and degenerate and that it was their duty to return India to its past. The East was seen as a mysterious, feminized world: weak and ruled not by logic but by emotion. British Orientalism and Russian Orientalism aren't one and the same, but this notion of a world of mystery and emotion is certainly present in the ballet. Add to that the hokey "Indian" movements and a bunch of thoroughly Western looking dancers spinning about pretending--in theory--to be from Southeast Asia and you've got something that I wasn't entirely enthusiastic about going to see. Maybe I took one too many colonial/post-colonial courses in college but that sort of stuff generally makes my skin crawl. And I'm not going to lie . . . there were moments that I cringed through. Most of it's just silliness, but the fakirs with their animalistic, bent-legged movements, creeping along the ground on hands and feet are pretty bad. Still, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the ballet.

The first act was . . . not my favorite, although I didn't hate it. I liked Hallberg as Solor. Hhe's more princely than warrior-like but always such a beautiful dancer. It's just that even when distraught he seemed so composed. I also enjoyed watching Murphy's Nikiya. It's so different from what I've seen her in before and while I think it's a role she could more thoroughly inhabit it was interesting to watch. I didn't really enjoy Michelle Wiles's dancing; she seemed terrifically competent but inexpressive. I'd never seen her dance before so perhaps it was just this time, but it seemed so lacking in subtlety. And as mentioned, I wasn't thrilled by the fakirs, in general.

I was excited to see the famous second act with the shades, and I really did love that one. The corps wasn't having their best day--there was one poor girl in the front row during the shades scene who was really having balance issues--but I still thought it was a really beautiful scene. A real antidote for all the silliness that came before. And I very much enjoyed watching the three soloists--Misty Copeland, Simone Messmer, and Melissa Thomas--all of whom I thought were lovely. I particularly liked whoever did the middle variation, but I'm not good at recognizing dancers from up close, much less the Family Circle where I was sitting.

The third act was basically more of the first. There was a candle issue (good thing those are battery powered) as the corps continued to have what was less than a banner night but other than that I did enjoy the dancing. When the world is destroyed it looks a wee bit like the dancers are on the deck of the Starship Enterprise and it's just taken enemy fire, everyone kind of hurling themselves in different directions. Hey though, there are totally worse sci fi shows to be compared to. Overall though, I thought the ballet itself was one of the most enjoyable classical ballets I've yet been to in terms of both the dances and the pacing.


tonya said...

Hi Meg -- funny, but I thought exactly the same thing about Orientalism and made the same kind of comments in my review of this ballet last year. I said I wished they would have at least tried to make the Indian dancing and costumes more authentic. I got reemed by lots of classical ballet enthusiasts though! So, I didn't make those same remarks this year. I'm glad I'm not the only one who had those thoughts!

Beautiful pictures of Maine by the way!

Meg said...

It's a good thing almost no one actually reads my blog so I'm safe from any reaming! :) I'm glad to hear that you thought the same though--it makes me feel less like I'm out in left field. More authentic costumes would be so gorgeous though.

And I'm glad you like the pictures . . . Maine is so pretty that it would be hard to take bad photos, I think.