A beautifully intricate tapestry with a stunning elephant is the first of what the audience sees as we sit in anticipation for the opening night of La Bayadere. As the overture begins and the curtain rises, the images on stage transport the audience to the grandeur of ancient India. The classical ballet legend of La Bayadere depicts an eternal love story doomed by a lover’s quarrel, envy and deadly vengeance. Choreographed by Florence Clerc after Marius Petipa and with music by Ludwig Minkus, act one commences in the outskirts of the sacred forest where a celebration of the ritual of fire is occurring. There we meet the most beautiful of the bayaderes, (temple dancers) the stunning Nikiya, danced by Lia Cirio.
From the moment Lia steps on the stage, her presence is breathtaking. The delicateness of her first tip toe across the stage to her extensions starting from her long arms all the way to the tips of her fingernails are absolutely brilliant. Lia’s energy steals the show. I have watched Lia in three other Boston Ballet productions and have recognized that this dancer is one of a kind as well as a rare gift to the audience. All of the Boston Ballet principle and corps de ballet dancers are absolutely phenomenal, yet Lia is one of the few that has the power to captivate an entire audience with even the simplist of movements. The role of Nikiya challenges Lia’s acting capabilities in the way that she must truly express her despair and love for Solor, not only through movement but realistic reactions.
The character of Solor, danced by Lasha Khozashvili, falls in love with Nikiya’s essence and promises his eternal love for her. Lasha immediately engages the audience with the incredible height of his leaps, completing extremely difficult leaping sequences and jumps. Nikiya and Solor share a passionate dance that professes their devotion to one another. Unfortunately, the High Brahmin who is also in love with Nikiya, becomes aware of their secrecy and vows to end Solor. The dancer’s fates become uncertain and the plot thickens as we enter Act two.
Before the unveiling of the scenery of act two, the audience painfully awaits the continuation of the story with what feels like 15 long minutes of a set transition. Once the curtain rises however, the entire audience gasps as an air of awe travels through the theater. What we see next feels as though we are looking through a children’s ballet pop-up book. The Palace is a magnificent display of authentic Arabian décor as well as breathtaking arches that enclose the stage and appear to be genuine woodcarvings. The costumes of the palace royalty as well as the attendants are stunning displays of earth tones decorated with jewels and gems galore. The princess, Gamzatti’s, jeweled slippers distinctively express her power and wealth within the palace royalty.
The women and the men of the palace take turns presenting themselves and their talent. The men soar through the air with their impressive leaps that if measured, would be at least four feet off the ground. The women often dance with scarves from their headdresses or attached by their Arabian pants. The incorporation of the scarves with the dancers movements is a gorgeous spectacle of creativity that choreographer, Florence Clerc, utilizes well.
The character of the Goldman danced one of the most distinctive presentations. The Goldman completes incredibly difficult pirouettes, called Russian turns, that require a dancer to turn on one foot with an extended leg at a 90-degree angle without ever touching the ground. The dancer’s leg was unbelievably sharp and sliced through the air as he turned with control and great speed. It was a marvelous display of technique and strength that had the audience erupting in applause. After each character has completed their presentation to the royals, Nikiya returns to the palace.
We discover that the Rajah seeks Solor to reward him with the gift of his daughter’s hand in marriage (Gamzatti). Solor consumed with the charm of Gamzatti and not wanting to insult the Rajah, agrees although he is conflicted about his promise to Nikiya. In a series of unfortunate events, the Rajah, High Brahmin, and Gamzatti turn against Nikiya and in an effort to murder her, they present to her a basket of flowers with a poisonous snake among the gift. She believes the gift is from Solor and that he has changed his mind about his marriage to Gamzatti, but alas, the gift kills her and a dance of death confirms the deed.
Overcome with grief, Solor imagines a dream sequence that concludes the ballet story. Nikiya dances in his mind one last display of beauty as twenty-four Corps De Ballet Members join the stage. They enter from downstage on a man-made ramp that highlights different levels as they arabesque with brutally, challenging unison down the ramp. This creates a stunning image of different lines and angles that successfully adds to the dream-like state. The large amount of dancers on stage at once establishes a visual display of picturesque eeriness. For the final dance, Nikiya and Solor intertwine in a duet full of astonishing lifts and graceful passion.
The Boston Ballet continues to climb the ladder of prestige in the dance world. The company’s repertoire is vastly diverse and allows audiences to enjoy so many different styles of ballet performances. The success of La Bayadere could not have been accomplished any other way. It was a wonderful display of passion, talent, and creativity that anyone can appreciate and enjoy.