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Jan McNulty

The Royal Ballet: La Bayadère, London, November 2018

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It's been great reading all these comments. Finally got to see this on Friday, despite best efforts of the trains to delay us! What and evening - it made me forget all the trials of the week. I was transported to another place by the wonderful RB performers. 

Sadly could not get to see the cinema screening as yet, so undecided as to which way round I prefer the ballerinas. How lucky we are to have had this opportunity. Has this happened before in the same run - I don't recall? I really hope the RB continues to perform this, my favourite ballet.

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Oh my god. I was asked by eldery lady, during intermission (screening in Boston) if Bayadere made me feel homesick (I'm Indian,and happened to be wearing Indian clothes that day). (NO bare midriff unlike Nikiya and Gamzatti). Said lady accosted me at the intermission, gushed about my "beautiful clothes" UGHHHHHH, asked me where I was from, and then asked me if watching it made me feel homesick. OH GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD I almost died. So for all those of you wondering what the fuss is all about: apparently, really, there are people in the world like that. I didn't know how to respond. How should I have responded?\Anyway, yes, I think the ballet is a benign form of Orientalist art, and I wouldnt shed a tear if it were retired from the rep. Only  my opinion, of course. But I dreally rather prefer it if orientalist-fantasy ballets dwelt on some different orient altogether, not mine. So that I wouldnt have to answer ridiculous questions at intermissions...

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22 minutes ago, SMballet said:

Oh my god. I was asked by eldery lady, during intermission (screening in Boston) if Bayadere made me feel homesick (I'm Indian,and happened to be wearing Indian clothes that day). (NO bare midriff unlike Nikiya and Gamzatti). Said lady accosted me at the intermission, gushed about my "beautiful clothes" UGHHHHHH, asked me where I was from, and then asked me if watching it made me feel homesick. OH GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD I almost died. So for all those of you wondering what the fuss is all about: apparently, really, there are people in the world like that. I didn't know how to respond. How should I have responded?\Anyway, yes, I think the ballet is a benign form of Orientalist art, and I wouldnt shed a tear if it were retired from the rep. Only  my opinion, of course. But I dreally rather prefer it if orientalist-fantasy ballets dwelt on some different orient altogether, not mine. So that I wouldnt have to answer ridiculous questions at intermissions...

“Yes, terribly homesick, it’s all so realistic.... You know, my mother was a temple dancer”

Edited by Blossom
Grammatical error
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We went to the local Vue cinema this afternoon to catch the encore screening, only to find a scrum* of people trying to get into the multiplex; crikey, we thought, word has got round about the brilliant La Bayadere run!

It turned out that most were there for the latest 'Fantastic Beasts' film, so only about 30 of us ended up heading to Screen 6 to watch our own trio of fantastic beasts - Nunez, Osipova and Muntagirov.

 

There's no need to 'review' the performance, as that's been done elsewhere; so I'll concentrate on the screening (and hopefully the eventual DVD!).

 

It's a bit of a caricature, but to me a typical ROH relay ends up containing one or more of the following elements...

  • loads of head/torso shots (especially when the dancer is doing something wonderful with their legs - eg spinning)
  • tight tracking shots, sometimes when the dancer is leaping, so you have no idea where the person is on the stage or how high off it they are (and no idea what is happening elsewhere)
  • lots of cuts from one one camera to another, seemingly every few seconds (though, thankfully, never that terrible overhead camera they always switch to at La Scala when anyone is spinning!)
  • very few wide-shots - as if they don't want dancers to appear as small, fuzzy blobs like they did in the old VHS days, but don't realise most people now have full HD (or better) TVs

Well, all I can say is 'thank you Ross MacGibbon & team' for this broadcast; it really did justice to what was going on on stage! Yes, there was the odd issue (covered later), but overall it played like you might watch a performance in the ROH itself - much of it with the unaided eye, then zooming in with binoculars for the action/acting.

 

On the plus side...

  • I don't think there was one occasion where I was thinking 'show me their legs!' because the camera was on the upper body
  • OK, Act 2 contains a broad ensemble piece covering the whole stage, but nevertheless a lot of the coverage of Act 2 was a simple static shot of the whole stage - lovely! 
  • some of the PDDs were shown with both dancers in fairly wide view; again, you could see what they were doing, where they were doing it in relation to others on the stage, and what those others were doing. Ross didn't just try to fill the screen top to bottom with 'skin'.
  • the cuts from one camera to another were much less frequent than usual (the Bolshoi broadcasts are my 'standard' here; they tend to hold camera angles for nice long periods of time)
  • the close-ups helped explain the story rather than detract from the dancing

There was one seemingly minor (but to me major!) issue. Up until Manon, broadcasts never seemed to use video 'tricks'; with Manon, they tried a fade from one camera to another at the end of a scene, but messed it up and showed a fancy 'star' transition instead. For me, there is no place for video effects of any kind; they don't add anything - they detract. Well, they tried something in this broadcast. When Solor got up from his couch in Act 2, it was almost like the broadcast cut to the weather forecast - in the cinema we were treated to wall-to-wall clouds for a couple of seconds before cutting back to the corps coming down the ramp. This was a CGI trick; there was no scrim to project the clouds onto, and we didn't see them in the ROH on the night of the performance.

 

All in all, though, a wonderfully atmospheric broadcast where we had the 'freedom' to look where we wanted to much of the time - and I am really looking forward to it being released on DVD! Fingers crossed!

 

*like a scrim, but thicker.

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SMBallet did you like any of the dancing in Bayadere or had this lady upset you so much that you couldn't really enjoy anything much after that? 

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On 18/11/2018 at 01:13, FrankH said:

My only excuse is that it's very late, and I'm getting old.

 

I've already got there - 'old' that is - and still somehow managed to share in your own and others' astonishment at the woeful spectacle of Taylor's tale.  I agree.  It needs; nay, deserves; to be punctured. 

 

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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16 hours ago, SMballet said:

Oh my god. I was asked by eldery lady, during intermission (screening in Boston) if Bayadere made me feel homesick (I'm Indian,and happened to be wearing Indian clothes that day). (NO bare midriff unlike Nikiya and Gamzatti). Said lady accosted me at the intermission, gushed about my "beautiful clothes" UGHHHHHH, asked me where I was from, and then asked me if watching it made me feel homesick. OH GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD I almost died. So for all those of you wondering what the fuss is all about: apparently, really, there are people in the world like that. I didn't know how to respond. How should I have responded?\Anyway, yes, I think the ballet is a benign form of Orientalist art, and I wouldnt shed a tear if it were retired from the rep. Only  my opinion, of course. But I dreally rather prefer it if orientalist-fantasy ballets dwelt on some different orient altogether, not mine. So that I wouldnt have to answer ridiculous questions at intermissions...

 

I would be really sad if la Bayadère were to be removed from the Rep... I guess I did not write about how blown away I was last Friday by the mighty trio of Osipova, Nunez and Muntagirov and needless to say, the beautiful RB corp!! I'm still thinking about it even now.....

 

Sorry to hear about your experience during the intermission, but there always are people that make ridiculous statements and unnecessary racial connotations on everything. Was that person that asked you the questionseven aware that the title of the ballet was not even in any oriental language?

 

Again, what pity it will be if any story that involves any cultural elements have to be removed and/or altered! Swan lake without the princesses, the nutcracker without the Arab dance, tea leaf, DonQ and Paquita without the Spanish dance,  Le Corsaire probably has to go as well... this list can go on and on...

 

I don't think any of these ballet is meant to belittle any culture, perhaps quite the opposite, just because Petipa (and other choreographers) were so fascinated by the different cultures, that we get to see all of these character dances today. Of course, what they knew of that time was limited, and there are certain level of fantasy and imagination involved. But anyway, a ballet is a ballet, not a documentary or national archive, can't all of us just sit back and relax?

 

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23 hours ago, Jan McNulty said:

Well my attempts to see La Bayadere at the cinema this week have ended in abject failure.  After Tuesday's debacle I went to the only local-ish encore screening today in Southport only to discover that the whole of the North West's population had decided to go on a day out to Southport.  After 20 incredibly stressful minutes trying to negotiate an overfull car park along with many other drivers in a similar situation and realising that even if I found somewhere straight away I would have missed not only the 15 minute preamble but the start of the performance.  So I drove home in high dudgeon!!!  Thank goodness I hadn't booked the ticket in advance. 

 

I thought I couldn't see you anywhere Janet. Apologies as I think I took the last parking space! It was really awful. But if you go again for a long ballet make sure you get a voucher on your way out as they've installed parking machines and you're only allowed 3 hours and of course if the ballet lasts nearly 3 hours and you've parked early you'll go over this. I think they have these sneaky cameras to track how long you've been there.

 

I took 2 ladies; one who saw it before on Tuesday at the cinema and one to whom it was new and they were both really impressed. The 3 leads were incredible (especially Vadream). His elegance and port de bras were out of this world. As Altynai Assylnuratova was born to play Nikia I think he was born to play Solor (mind you I think that for just about every role I see him in!) But I think his Solor was really special. All the corps and the Shades were sheer perfection. It was so wonderful all we need now is a dvd or better still on tv over Christmas.

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I was thinking the BBC might show the new Swan Lake at Christmas, but I would prefer La Bayadere, or both!

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6 hours ago, SylviaLiu said:

I don't think any of these ballet is meant to belittle any culture, perhaps quite the opposite, just because Petipa (and other choreographers) were so fascinated by the different cultures, that we get to see all of these character dances today. Of course, what they knew of that time was limited, and there are certain level of fantasy and imagination involved. But anyway, a ballet is a ballet, not a documentary or national archive, can't all of us just sit back and relax?

 

 

I get what you're saying, but the emphasis on 'different' cultures (which may be better described by 'otherness') sometimes tires me to death I must say. How many Austrians for example get asked about their homesickness at the performances of Mayerling? How many Danish get bothered at the performances of Hamlet? The list goes on and it shows clearly this works only one way.

 

I was also blown away by Nunez/Osipova/Muntagirov but at the same time, it's so a generic story  in a generic format only spiced up by 'Oriental' elements and of course, wonderful dance, that I find it difficult to follow all the discussions about character development, none of ballet characters usually makes sense to me! I can and do enjoy the rapport between dancers.

Edited by chr
fixed an awkward sentence
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1 hour ago, chr said:

 

I get what you're saying, but the emphasis on 'different' cultures (which may be better described by 'otherness') sometimes tires me to death I must say. How many Austrians for example get asked about their homesickness at the performances of Mayerling? How many Danish get bothered at the performances of Hamlet? The list goes on and it shows clearly this works only one way.

 

I was also blown away by Nunez/Osipova/Muntagirov but at the same time, it's so a generic story  in a generic format only spiced up by 'Oriental' elements and of course, wonderful dance, that I find it difficult to follow all the discussions about character development, none of ballet characters usually makes sense to me! I can and do enjoy the rapport between dancers.

 

I have to agree wholeheartedly with this post.

 

As a ballet fan who is also vaguely roundabout from wherever Bayadere is supposed to be set, I've always felt a bit uneasy about this one. I took my (reluctant) husband to see it a few years ago after telling him excitedly about the Shades, but at the performance I could feel his discomfort in the preceding scenes and he said later that he found some of it pretty offensive, and I haven't wanted to watch it since. This time at the cinema relay I actually found Bussell's reminder that it was a 20thC Russian choreographer's fantasy quite helpful in allowing me to enjoy the dancing.

 

8 hours ago, SylviaLiu said:

I don't think any of these ballet is meant to belittle any culture, perhaps quite the opposite, just because Petipa (and other choreographers) were so fascinated by the different cultures, that we get to see all of these character dances today. Of course, what they knew of that time was limited, and there are certain level of fantasy and imagination involved. But anyway, a ballet is a ballet, not a documentary or national archive, can't all of us just sit back and relax?

 

 

I think what some might see as celebrating a culture, others might see as fetishising. I love the dancing and dancers, I like the opulent costumes too, and I wouldn't want to lose Bayadere from the rep. But I think discussion of the problems with this ballet and the discomfort it generates should have a place here too.

Edited by Sunrise
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On 19/11/2018 at 00:12, LinMM said:

SMBallet did you like any of the dancing in Bayadere or had this lady upset you so much that you couldn't really enjoy anything much after that? 

 

Oh no no I wasn't upset. But it's never been my favourite ballet, I don't know why. I'm always thrilled by the Shades act, but the rest of it is just boring and overly "exotic" a la russe, for my tastes. I don't like the Nikiya Gamzatti bit, and I loathe the bronze (gold?!) idol, the temple dancers, all of that. (But I must note that I've never watched the full ballet live, just the Shades act at the Opera de Paris: which is, when done well, beath taking).

To answer LinMM's question, oh no no, the only thing that really bothered me was that I couldnt come up with a suitably witty response to the lady at the time , I just muttered something polite and fled. I wasted a good ten minutes afterwards wishing I'd said something witty, like "oh I'm from Calcutte not St Petersburg so why would this make me home sick," (And now, having seen the hilarious elephant clip above, I wish I'd said "I'd have felt even more home sick if there had been an elephant for Solor.'")

But in the main, I think that , while in the UK people are well educated enough to know that *of course* it's a fantasy world that says more about 19th Century high Russian cultural mores than anything else, that is not the case in the US. 

I don't mind the orientalist fantasy bit myself; as I said above, I think it's benign; but it is orientalist, and very different from other fantasy ballets like Swan Lake and Nutcracker (which many of you bring up) which don't take tropes of "other" cultures and reduce them to ridiculous costumes. I hate the Chinese and Arabic dances in Nutcracker too, by the way. I don't think I'm overly sensitive (to use the words that some of you use, I don't think I'm a PC brigade - I never heard that expression before! (but I'm not British so maybe it's a british thing, and I certainly don't want to wade in to any British cultural wars here) I just have, like I suppose all of you, very clear ideas about what constitutes good taste in art. And, to my very specific tastes, la bayadere (which yes it's a french word, but I'm completely francophone, and no it is never used except in very orientalist contexts such as 19th century orientalost paintings set in India or Algeria etc) is not good art.

But similar costumes , character tropes etc can be found in lavish bollywood movies made even today, so I think, for me, it's really just  question of taste, not of having taken offence when none is meant. I'd so, so, so much rather the austere aestheticism of, say, Swan Lake. No midriff baring hip swaying temple dancers for me, I say! Or snakes! Or elephants!

 

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I'd be interested in your take on the "ridiculous costumes", then, SMballet - or is it just the expanses of bare midriff?

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5 hours ago, SMballet said:

But in the main, I think that , while in the UK people are well educated enough to know that *of course* it's a fantasy world that says more about 19th Century high Russian cultural mores than anything else.

 

Well, a ballet lover who thinks that may not be educated enough as the ballets like "la Bayadere" are not the product of the 19th Century high Russian culture and tell us nothing about "Russian cultural mores". "La bayadere", "Swan Lake", Nutcracker", and a few other ballets, are simply the only survivors of an enormous body of stage pieces produced in Paris, London, Milan, Saint-Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, etc, throughout the 19th Century. When one moves back in time, the situation becomes even worse, "orientalist fantasies" of Versailles are even more fantastic, yet those who enjoyed them in the palaces of Louis XIV or Louis XV had a far greater right than us to talk about what "constitutes a good taste".

 

Quote

I just have, like I suppose all of you, very clear ideas about what constitutes good taste in art.

 

I hold an opposite view, to the effect that almost none of us today have any idea, much less -- a "clear" idea, about what constitutes a good taste in Art.

Edited by assoluta
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13 hours ago, SMballet said:

 

To answer LinMM's question, oh no no, the only thing that really bothered me was that I couldnt come up with a suitably witty response to the lady at the time , I just muttered something polite and fled. I wasted a good ten minutes afterwards wishing I'd said something witty, like "oh I'm from Calcutte not St Petersburg so why would this make me home sick," (And now, having seen the hilarious elephant clip above, I wish I'd said "I'd have felt even more home sick if there had been an elephant for Solor.'")

But in the main, I think that , while in the UK people are well educated enough to know that *of course* it's a fantasy world that says more about 19th Century high Russian cultural mores than anything else, that is not the case in the US. 

 

 

I can 100% relate to your experience re. wasting time to come back with something witty, when I at the same time fully know the senseless person already forgot what she/he had said..

 

I think it's too much to expect from the average everyday British person to *of course* know all that about the 19th Century Russian Fantasy (this BTW is what Darcey Bussell said)'. This forum I found is pretty much an outlier (in a good way) and living in Britain I come across everyday racism pretty frequently so no reason to assume Brits are any more educated than Americans (I'm not saying I'm above all that). Also that's why I think this topic is a valid and relevant one whenever there's a staging of La Bayadere w/o someone screaming PC going mad! 

 

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5 minutes ago, chr said:

I come across everyday racism pretty frequently

 

It seems to me that the question to be asked about any piece of art is, roughly, "Is this reinforcing racist attitudes?" 

 

I'd argue La Bayadere is too ridiculous to do that, but I wouldn't do so very strongly.

 

8 hours ago, assoluta said:

yet those who enjoyed them in the palaces of Louis XIV or Louis XV had a far greater right than us to talk about what "constitutes a good taste".

 

🙄

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On ‎17‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 09:00, graemew said:

 

I guess it depends whether you travel home on the bus as to whether you can leave it on. You would get away with it on the Tube

ENO's last-but-one production of Aida (dir: Jo Davies, des: Zandra Rhodes) made the tenor paint his ears gold.  I used to go to the pub with this singer and he would come out with partially gold earlobes and then complain that it came off on his mobile phone screen when he rang his wife!

 

https://www.photostage.co.uk/stock-photo/aida-07eno-3096/gallery-1272-2153-1171-0/detail-0_00028367.html

Edited by RuthE
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2 hours ago, chr said:

that's why I think this topic is a valid and relevant one whenever there's a staging of La Bayadere

 

I don't think  there is any sensible potential correlation between  racism and Makarova's La Bayadere, such as to warrant the quantity of the  discussion we have already had  on this thread alone, let alone  it all being raised again whenever it is next performed !

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God, this is so depressing.  When was it exactly that a piece of light, frothy entertainment created in a bygone era, turned in to yet another thing to complain about in this  most tolerant of countries?

 

‘Each piece of art, regardless of its vintage must now be judged on whether it reinforces racist attitudes.’

 

Really?  Who is to be the judge - those who live their life virtue signalling how upset they are?  When did racism become defined by dancers with bare  midriffs and some use of opium?  Is that really cause for concern?

 

In a lifetime of travel I have seen much to offend me in other countries, a great deal that I dislike about different cultures.  And I”m talking real life here, not a fairytale depicted in dance.  Bull fighting upsets me so should Carmen be banned or perhaps be relocated to a skate park?  Bangkok, don’t get me started on the sleaze that awaits at every corner, (goodbye Chess) or The red light districts in Hamburg and Amsterdam.  The answer is surely that I excercise good sense and avoid those things that offend without having the bad manners to criticise an alien culture.

 

Of course whilst one can pick and choose your entertainment, other things are harder to ignore.  Forced marriage is a nasty custom fairly recently imported to our country, although traditional in some Eastern countries.  If an artistic work were to be created in the present day that depicted this abhorrent custom, then I hope that most people would criticise and ultimately shun it.  This is common sense, exercising judgment, not forever claiming to be made uncomfortable by a piece of entertainment that you have chosen to see.

 

it is tempting to just roll my eyes, sigh and reach for a glass, but this ‘it made me uncomfortable’ syndrome is insidiously working its way into our culture.  Must nobody be challenged by anything?  Must everything appeal to everybody?  Must common sense fly out the door in the rush to be part of the moral minority?  

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After seeing this at the cinema, I was blown away by Nunez's performance. She has been so reliable over the years, and been so accomplished in such a variety of different roles, I was starting to take her for granted.  Stupid of me!  What a fabulous dancer she is.

 

Likewise, in the past I have found Osipova a little over the top at times.  Her dancing is never less than spectacular, but on occasion I have found her characterisation to be a bit overdone.  On this occasion I thought she was wonderful.

 

To see two such brilliant ballerinas together, plus the gorgeous Muntagirov, who never puts a foot wrong, was absolutely fantastic.  I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have such talent appearing on the Covent Garden stage, and to have the opportunity to see them. 

 

Not forgetting, of course, all the other dancers on display.  Aren't we lucky?    

Edited by Fonty
I was getting a little depressed by some of the comments, and felt the need to get back to the actual performance.
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1 hour ago, Fonty said:

Aren't we lucky? 

I was getting a little depressed by some of the comments, and felt the need to get back to the actual performance.

 

I'll second that, and in a cinema performance of superlatives mention the start of the Muntagirov/Ospiova 'betrothal' PDD in Act 1.

They were so perfectly synchronised for those first series of leaps/turns (I've not idea of the technical term) across and back across the rear of the stage, that Muntagirov could have been Osipova's shadow!

Edited by Nogoat
Fat fingers and clarity...
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I’m afraid I admire Vadream more and more. It isn’t healthy!

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I don't want to bring up the experience of the other poster too often, but SMBallet's experience is one example of 'reinforcing racist attitude' isn't it? I don't think just beating up someone for their race a racist act (which BTW is not unheard of occurrence in the streets of London, the capital of the most tolerant of countries). I'm probably mixing things up here to which other posters are responding, but let me just clarify that I wasn't merely referring to that someone *too PC* may feel squeamish watching this ballet. Also it's just bad taste to display overt fetish about the different cultures, especially when the power dynamics only flows one way.

 

As the ballet will never be shelved anyway, at least what the presenters at the cinema screening said last week could be re-iterated each time it's up.

 

To be fair, La Bayadere is not one of the most offensive ballets I've attended, I really don't like many of MacMillan's narrative ballets where most female roles seem to be harlots, prostitutes, etc.. 

 

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Fonty I agree with you. Now I have had the chance to think more about Friday's show - terrific balance from Nunez rightly applauded by the audience, she was also beautiful, imperious and majestic and out to get her man at any cost. Muntagirov - perhaps not a warrior but a true danseur noble and partnering the ballerinas so securely. Osipova really surprised me with her portrayal of Nikiya- very touching. 

Beautiful shades act- heavenly. Sambe was very exciting as the bronze idol. Bravo to all. So sad it's all over.

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3 hours ago, chr said:

I don't want to bring up the experience of the other poster too often, but SMBallet's experience is one example of 'reinforcing racist attitude' isn't it? I don't think just beating up someone for their race a racist act (which BTW is not unheard of occurrence in the streets of London, the capital of the most tolerant of countries). I'm probably mixing things up here to which other posters are responding, but let me just clarify that I wasn't merely referring to that someone *too PC* may feel squeamish watching this ballet. Also it's just bad taste to display overt fetish about the different cultures, especially when the power dynamics only flows one way.

 

As the ballet will never be shelved anyway, at least what the presenters at the cinema screening said last week could be re-iterated each time it's up.

 

To be fair, La Bayadere is not one of the most offensive ballets I've attended, I really don't like many of MacMillan's narrative ballets where most female roles seem to be harlots, prostitutes, etc.. 

 

Then don’t go to them.  I dislike Fille but I don’t cast  around for moral objections.  I don’t like it so I don’t go.  Easy.

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Is there a rule now that one can only create art based strictly on factual accuracy and ones own racial heritage? How awfully joyless and restrictive life has become.

 

And what if ballet adopts the current theatre rule that only actors of the correct racial minority  heritage can play a part? That would mean only dancers of ‘oriental’ heritage could dance in La Bayadare. 

 

 

Edited by tabitha
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25 minutes ago, penelopesimpson said:

Then don’t go to them.  I dislike Fille but I don’t cast  around for moral objections.  I don’t like it so I don’t go.  Easy.

I hope you will go and see Fille again one day, Penelope, and enjoy it as much as I do! There is so much humanity and warmth in this ballet. And there is choreography that uses, respects and develops the traditions of classical ballet. 

But thank goodness you don't cast around for moral objections in Fille! 

Wasn't there someone who objected to Sleeping Beauty because the prince wakes her up with a kiss while she is asleep? Oh my oh my! 

 

Edited by Darlex
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.it would seem so.  Our  ountry is wonderfully tolerant, overwhelmingly welcoming to all.  It seems we are well on the way to having this toleranc3 turned against us by the ‘I was offended’ brigade.  Tolerance thus becomes intolerance.

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Our country was wonderfully tolerant.  That appears to have disappeared in recent years.

 

But back to Bayadere ... did the corps get a special acknowledgement at the end of the final run?  They certainly deserved it.

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