Revenge, Opium, Love & Loss at the Ballet

Revenge, Opium, Love & Loss at the Ballet

It is refreshing in an age when a certain pair of shoes is “to die for” and one Kardashian sister is ready to kill the other because a shirt has been borrowed without permission, to be reminded of greater tragedies.  Being reminded that love, betrayal, and loss are the true tragedies in life.  Love, betrayal and loss are tragedies that hopefully we are not experiencing in our day to day lives, but someone is and that puts things in perspective.  It is funny how art, imitating life, sheds light back on life itself. This week I was invited as a guest of Boston Ballet to opening night of La Bayadère.

Boston Ballet’s performance of Florence Clerc’s La Bayadère is full of drama.  It is set in a time long past.  The story has a twist on the Romeo and Juliet theme of love and loss.  La Bayadère takes place in ancient India and the beautiful Boston Opera House sets transport you out of the cool New England fall  into the thick air of the Indian jungle.  Other scenes bring you inside the opulent castle of the Rajah or whisk you off into a drug-induced dream.

Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère :  Kathleen Breen Combes and Lasha Khozashvili.  Photograph by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet
Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère: Kathleen Breen Combes as Gamzatti. Photograph by Gene Schiavone & courtesy of Boston Ballet

Boston Ballet’s opening night was flawless at least as far as this former fairly critical dancer’s eye could see.  La Bayadère has everything from beautiful duets including one that almost felt like a trio with the orchestra’s first violin as the third “dancer”.  The ballet also has many full corps de ballet pieces which are exceptional.  One of my favourite corps de ballet pieces transported me, trance-like into Solor’s opiate dream. The staging, choreography, precise dancing and lighting all work together to suck you in.

Lia Cirio shone as the star she is.  Her versatility of movement and precision from the very stylized pieces to the more classical, traditional dances seemed natural so you focused as much on the story as the movement itself.  The young children in the dance were flawless as well.  The youngest children, the Golden Idol Children performed their folksy character dance in unison and complimented the energy and greatness of Jeffrey Cirio as the Golden Idol.  The Manu Girls performed the difficult Jug Dance perfectly.  The duo playfully danced with Rie Ichikawa as Manu on pointe without missing a step.

Joseph Gatti in Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère. Photography by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet
Joseph Gatti in Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère. Photography by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet

The costumes alone, are breath taking and a truly unique experience.  Because of the setting, in ancient India, the garb and movement reflect the intricate details of Eastern traditions.  Some of the movement highlights an elephant motif reminding you of place and time.  Other dances seem to foreshadow the presence of snakes in a dramatic scene.

Lia Cirio in Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère by Gene Schiavone
Lia Cirio in Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère.  Photograph by Gene Schiavone courtesy of Boston Ballet

As a child, I remember seeing video clips of and colouring in pictures of famous dancers. Something about the costumes and movement of Lasha Khozashvili’s Solor brought back that image of Nijinsky seemingly effortlessly suspended in the air.  Even the corps de ballet all in white, with their slow lilting movement, seemed to stylistically travel back in time with hints of Anna Pavlova in every deliberate step.

La Bayadère is playing at Boston’s Opera House through October 27th.  Tickets can be purchased at the Boston Ballet Box office or online.  If you have students or seniors who will be joining you at the ballet consider rush tickets for the wonderfully accessible price of $20.


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