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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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American Ballet Theatre: La Bayadère

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 19, 2007
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

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American Ballet Theatre
American Ballet Theatre (office)
890 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
212-477-3030
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American Ballet Theatre
www.abt.org

La Bayadère
Ballet in Three Acts
At
Metropolitan Opera House
www.lincolncenter.org

Kevin McKenzie, Artistic Director
Rachel S. Moore, Executive Director
Victor Barbee, Associate Artistic Director
Ballet Masters:
Wes Chapman, Susan Jones, Irina Kolpakova,
Georgina Parkinson, Clinton Luckett
Ormsby Wilkins, Music Director
Kelly Ryan, Director of Press and Public Relations
Susan Morgan, Press Associate
(Read More ABT Reviews).

La Bayadère (See May 17, 2004 Review): Choreography by Natalia Makarova after Marius Petipa, Music by Ludwig Minkus, specially arranged by John Lanchbery, production conceived and directed by Natalia Makarova, Scenery by Pierluigi Samaritini, Costumes designed by Theoni V. Aldredge, Lighting by Toshiro Ogawa, Production Coordinator, Dina Makaroff, Performed by Diana Vishneva as Nikiya, a temple dancer, Ethan Steifel as Solor, a warrior, Gennadi Saveliev as The Radjah Dugumanta, Stella Abrera as Gamzatti, the Radjah's daughter, Victor Barbee as The High Brahmin, Sarawanee Tanatanit as Aya, Gamzatti's servant, Craig Salstein as Magdaveya, Head Fakir, Kristi Boone and Carmen Corella as lead D'Jampe Dancers, Misty Copeland, Adrienne Schulte, and Hee Seo as lead Shades, Herman Cornejo as The Bronze Idol, and the Company as The Fakirs, The Temple Dancers, Solor's Friend, The Warriors, D'Jampe Dancers, Waltz, Pa d'Action, The Shades, The Candle Dance, Flower Girls, Warrior Attendants, Palace Slaves, and Priests, Conductor: Charles Barker.

It had been too long since the 2004 performances of this three-act ballet, with Natalia Makarova's sweeping choreography, Theoni Aldredge's brilliantly conceived costumes, Toshiro Ogawa's shifting lighting, and Pierluigi Samaritini's sumptuous scenery. We did have a one-act Shades production at the Opening Night Gala, recently, which whetted the appetite for the three-act ballet, and tonight was cast one, for this writer, and worth every moment of anticipation.

Nikiya, a temple dancer, is betrayed by the High Brahmin, who desires her to despair, but is thwarted by Solor, a warrior, whose photograph is the object of desire for Gamzatti, the Radjah's daughter. The High Brahmin tips off the Radjah, whose daughter is now affianced to Solor, that Nikiya is romantically involved with Solor, as the Brahmin reveals to the Radjah Nikiya's silky scarf. The Radjah and Gamzatti arrange for Nikiya to be bitten by a snake in a flower basket, as Nikiya dances at Gamzatti and Solor's pre-wedding festivities. Nikiya refuses the Brahmin's bottled antidote and falls lifeless, when she sees Solor and Gamzatti leave, holding hands. Solor, consumed in grief, smokes opium and envisions 27 Shades, all in ghost-like resemblance to Nikiya. A Bronze Idol dances in rapid exultation to herald the wedding. Solor, however, remembers Nikiya's vision as he prepares to marry Gamzatti, and this vision re-appears at the ceremony, prior to a candle dance. But, soon the gods are angry, and the temple and guests are buried in the temple's implosion. Finally, Nikiya and Solor re-unite in the after life.

As Nikiya, Diana Vishneva exuded emotionality and elegant lines, and she portrayed Nikiya with texture, nuance, and ethereal beauty. Ethan Steifel is obviously well over his former injuries, as he leapt about in wild abandon and zeal. Mr. Steifel presented an impassioned persona, ever in conflict, ever in pursuit. His solos were dynamic and pronounced, and the pas de deux with Ms. Vishneva was serenely sensual and theatrical. As Gamzatti, Stella Abrera seems poised for leading roles, with a stellar performance, sharp technique, and dramatic internalization. The pas de deux with Mr. Steifel was virtuosic and poised, as that choreography explicitly requires visual elevation and extension, and Ms. Abrera's taut limbs met the challenge. As the Radjah, Gennadi Saveliev was seething and searing, especially in Nikiya's doomed flower basket dance, as he slithered about, like a human snake, facilitating her destruction.

As the High Brahmin, Victor Barbee was potent and tall and tenaciously in charge of his fate. Craig Salstein, as Magdaveya, crouched, crept, crawled, leaped, and lunged over fire and figures, as leader of the Fakirs, long-haired, near-naked beggars with mystical powers. Sarawanee Tanatanit, as Gamzatti's servant, was strongly in role, and Misty Copeland was an especially mesmerizing, lead Shade. Speaking of the Shades, they were truly the stars tonight, in perfect synchronization, symmetry, and sensuality. In fact, the repetitive forward torso bends, uplifted arms, and bent back legs, in echoing, ethereal lifts, were even stronger than at the Gala preview. Another star was Herman Cornejo, as the Bronze Idol, who descends the temple steps, running, dancing, painted all in gold, for just minutes, and then ascends the temple steps once again. I remember Julio Bocca as the Bronze Idol decades ago, and Mr. Cornejo possesses the same magical momentum and classy charisma.

Charles Barker kept the ABT Orchestra in full rapture of Minkus' score. You can explore the ABT Season schedule and buy tickets at www.abt.org.
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