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Royal Ballet Insight and In Rehearsal discussion

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It was an interesting discussion and I don't recall that it focused on 'offensiveness' particularly. It seems a reasonable subject to discuss re Bayadere, and  although I agree the discussion could have been widened, it was a serious and useful one, in my view.

So much better than some of the rather empty chat and the endless 'incredibles' and 'amazings' we sometimes have to make do with....in my opinion.

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34 minutes ago, Timmie said:

 

I didn't think the piece they did was particularly good but I thought it was OK for them to have a go at the topic. I wouldn't want ballets to be changed and I think the discussion is worth having to make it clear that ballet is art with a historical context and a thing of it's time. At least they didn't have to tackle the Bolshoi version of La B :lol:.

And as for Russian Companies Petrushka? Ouch

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1 hour ago, alison said:

I'm not sure whether I'd want to recommend my Indian neighbours to go and watch La Bayadère or not

In the useful and interesting discussion  on this aspect, everyone (including Indian choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh) agreed it was not to be regarded today as some kind of attempt to represent India or Indian dance; it really derives from the general idea of  "Orientalia" as imagined at the time it was conceived (with the addition of clearly non-oriental classical ballet in the form of a white act, and tutus). I don't see any reason for anyone from India or otherwise to somehow feel offended just because it is not an  accurate portrayal of India's cultural heritage. 

Edited by Richard LH
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But people get offended over anything nowadays, Richard....or even worse, patronising people get offended on their behalf. 

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1 minute ago, Sim said:

But people get offended over anything nowadays, Richard....or even worse, patronising people get offended on their behalf. 

Yes and I think the Insight discussion, without stating your  point in so many words,  politely showed why there was no justification for  being offended in this case.

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We’ve been round this loop before, but FWIW I don’t think it’s for me or other non-Indian people to judge how offensive or inoffensive La Bayadere is to Indian people. Happily, Shobana Jeyasingh’s view is that it isn’t offensive with the very important proviso that people don’t confuse it for something even approximately authentic. I’d be interested in other Indian people’s views.

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2 hours ago, Lizbie1 said:

I don’t think it’s for me or other non-Indian people to judge how offensive or inoffensive La Bayadere is to Indian people

The problem I have with that,  Lizbie, is it suggests only a particular group of people are entitled to a view on what is offensive. I think people outside the most likely potential "victims" of an offence can, and indeed should, also be able to make a reasonable judgement one way or the other. In this case I do think it is valid to opine, though not being Indian, that there are no real grounds for being offended by the general context in which La B is set.

By the same token, and as an example, I also think, though white,  I can validly express distaste and discomfort about some of the "blacking" of characters which has been seen in earlier productions. I hope this aspect has been modified in the latest production.

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55 minutes ago, Richard LH said:

By the same token, and as an example, I also think, though white,  I can validly express distaste and discomfort about some of the "blacking" of characters which has been seen in earlier productions. I hope this aspect has been modified in the latest production.

 

I believe that you must be referring to Russian productions of La Bayadere, Richard. IIRC Makarova's version has only ever had one character with an altered skin colour and that is the Bronze Idol.

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28 minutes ago, capybara said:

 

I believe that you must be referring to Russian productions of La Bayadere, Richard. IIRC Makarova's version has only ever had one character with an altered skin colour and that is the Bronze Idol.

I wasn't too sure if that was so, but thanks for explaining this.

I don't think anyone would object to that one skin change, on behalf of the bronze idol community or otherwise.

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55 minutes ago, capybara said:

 

I believe that you must be referring to Russian productions of La Bayadere, Richard. IIRC Makarova's version has only ever had one character with an altered skin colour and that is the Bronze Idol.

 

The Fakirs are dressed in what can only really be described as blackface. I normally have very little patience for claims of cultural appropriation and such, but have to admit that I find their costumes off putting. Fakirs are essentially Muslim hermits and whilst I have no problem with their presence or the choreography, I'm not sure that painting the dancers black is necessary. This is the only thing that I think should be changed about this production.

 

The image is from the DVD with Rojo and Acosta from 2011 so a change may have been made in the last run.

 

screen-shot-2018-10-26-at-20-4.png

Edited by Saodan
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I thought at best they were a sort of charcoal grey, but I think even that has been toned down over the years: I'm not even sure they still have any skin paint at all, but then it's been some considerable time since the RB performed it.

 

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The RB last performed La Bayadere in 2013. There was also talk about the same issue (unnecessary in my view but this is how things have become nowadays...)

A Forum member called Dischuffed said "The production is a reasonable one (I personally find all the Orientalist schtick ridiculous and borderline racist, but I can tolerate it better in older ballets than new works (there really is no excuse for the Arabian slaving scene in ENB's Nutcracker, or the Caterpillar's "harem" in Alice - why incidentally is this always stereotypically cast with the darkest skinned male dancers in the RB??))"

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11 hours ago, Saodan said:

 

The Fakirs are dressed in what can only really be described as blackface. I normally have very little patience for claims of cultural appropriation and such, but have to admit that I find their costumes off putting. Fakirs are essentially Muslim hermits and whilst I have no problem with their presence or the choreography, I'm not sure that painting the dancers black is necessary. This is the only thing that I think should be changed about this production.

 

The image is from the DVD with Rojo and Acosta from 2011 so a change may have been made in the last run.

 

 

Yes thanks Saodan, you are quite right.  I have that RB DVD (actually recorded in 2009) and I do now recall those fakirs would have been some of the ones that I had in mind. 

 

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I had forgotten that the Fakirs were once very dark. Last time (2013), I seem to recall them having their own skin tone but with various degrees of black striping.

Either way, there is a need for the RB to 'proceed with caution'. 

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3 hours ago, Tony Newcombe said:

Hasn’t Nicol Edmonds danced the Caterpillar

Yes.  

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Interesting....the “racist” aspect of the dark skin colour of the fakirs never occurred to me. I have always thought they are that charcoal hue because they are the keepers of the fires 🔥 and therefore they have that charred tinge like we get if we have an outdoor fire.  I am obviously just naive.   

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15 hours ago, Richard LH said:

The problem I have with that,  Lizbie, is it suggests only a particular group of people are entitled to a view on what is offensive. I think people outside the most likely potential "victims" of an offence can, and indeed should, also be able to make a reasonable judgement one way or the other. In this case I do think it is valid to opine, though not being Indian, that there are no real grounds for being offended by the general context in which La B is set.

 

 

I think we'll have to agree to disagree!

 

15 hours ago, Richard LH said:

By the same token, and as an example, I also think, though white,  I can validly express distaste and discomfort about some of the "blacking" of characters which has been seen in earlier productions. I hope this aspect has been modified in the latest production.

 

IMO the validity of this opinion comes from decades of black people telling us that blackface is offensive.

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1 minute ago, Sim said:

Interesting....the “racist” aspect of the dark skin colour of the fakirs never occurred to me. I have always thought they are that charcoal hue because they are the keepers of the fires 🔥 and therefore they have that charred tinge like we get if we have an outdoor fire.  I am obviously just naive.   

 

In fairness, I had often wondered this myself: however I think it's sufficiently open to interpretation, or perhaps misconception, that it's worth changing.

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2 minutes ago, Lizbie1 said:

 

In fairness, I had often wondered this myself: however I think it's sufficiently open to interpretation, or perhaps misconception, that it's worth changing.

I disagree, but I don't want to use this thread to go down that road.   :)

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On 27/10/2018 at 10:37, Sim said:

I disagree, but I don't want to use this thread to go down that road.   :)

 

Sim I hope this follow up is acceptable and hopefully illuminating.

I watched the RB La Bayadere Blu-ray today and the Fakirs really are grey rather than ‘blacked up’ so I thought I’d have a quick Google. ‘The Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India’, 1903, by John Campbell Oman, says that Sadhus (Hindu version of Fakir as far as I can tell) rub their skin all over with ashes for protection from the sun’s rays and insects. The ash is sifted down to a fine powder so gives a good covering.

Google says this about the book I referred to: “This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.”

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You're welcome Richard :). I found it quite interesting. Definitely getting into a La Bayadere frame of mind now.

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So my theory was on the right track!   Thanks Timmie.

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9 hours ago, Timmie said:

You're welcome Richard :). I found it quite interesting. Definitely getting into a La Bayadere frame of mind now.

Indeed - dress rehearsal today !  I wonder which cast will be on stage...

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Sorry if this has been made clear elsewhere, but what exactly is the etiquette expected on the Forum about commenting on a Dress Rehearsal?  I am thinking of what I should or should not post about yesterday's DR of La Bayadere. 

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I recall from the past that we would never comment on a Dress Rehearsal as it is only a rehearsal and not a public performance, dancers may mark their role or dance "under" in order to preserve their energy for afternoon rehearsals so it's not really fair to comment on any performer during a Dress Rehearsal. 

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9 minutes ago, Xandra Newman said:

I recall from the past that we would never comment on a Dress Rehearsal as it is only a rehearsal and not a public performance, dancers may mark their role or dance "under" in order to preserve their energy for afternoon rehearsals so it's not really fair to comment on any performer during a Dress Rehearsal. 

 

This is my preference also.

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Thanks Xandra and BBB. I was not proposing to post anything critical about any performer, but I note for example cast details have already been posted elsewhere, and I recall posters about earlier DRs have said things along the lines of " you are in for a treat"...

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