La Bayadere recalls classical era

THE GREAT classical ballet La Bayadere has gone through many changes since its premiere in St Petersburg in 1877. In the last few years, several productions have attempted to get closer to the original version.
"La Bayadere is being performed almost everywhere these days. We are [unofficially] competing amongst ourselves to see who will do it best," said Emil T. Bartko, director of the Slovak National Theatre's (SND) new production of the ballet.
The tragic love story of Bayadere - in which the temple dancer Nikiya falls in love with the soldier Solor, who is destined to marry Gamsatti, the daughter of an Indian king - made its SND debut on April 25.


BALLET stars Slovak dancers.
photo: Ctibor Bachratý

THE GREAT classical ballet La Bayadere has gone through many changes since its premiere in St Petersburg in 1877. In the last few years, several productions have attempted to get closer to the original version.

"La Bayadere is being performed almost everywhere these days. We are [unofficially] competing amongst ourselves to see who will do it best," said Emil T. Bartko, director of the Slovak National Theatre's (SND) new production of the ballet.

The tragic love story of Bayadere - in which the temple dancer Nikiya falls in love with the soldier Solor, who is destined to marry Gamsatti, the daughter of an Indian king - made its SND debut on April 25.

Based on the libretto by Sergei N. Khudekov, music by Ludwig A. Minkus, and choregoraphy by Marius Petipa, this version was directed and choreographed for the SND by Rafael G. Avnikjan from the Republic of Georgia, an expert on Russian classical ballet, and his wife, Karin Alaverdjan, a dance teacher. They struggled to fit as much of the original ballet, which is more than four hours long, as they could into a two-hour show that would appeal to the contemporary ballet goer.

"I hesitated for a long time, trying to justify removing things from [the original]. But we didn't want to make the audience sit through the whole four-hour show, so we cut out scenes that had nothing to do with the plot," said Avnikjan.

Most of the soloists are Slovak dancers with the Ballet SND, but the producers assigned one of the main roles to the Viennese ballet dancer Sandra Polak. The 19 year old, formerly a dancer for the Vienna State Opera Ballet, will portray Gamsatti, the daughter of the king.

"Even though producing classical ballet is more difficult these days, because the works are being adjusted for modern times, we cannot forget that something existed there before us," said Avnikjan.

"And Minkus's music [from India] is the most beautiful ballet music I've ever heard."

The next performances will take place on May 14 and June 7, starting at 19:00.

- Zuzana Habšudová

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