La Bayadère (the Temple Dancer) like Swan Lake, is a masterpiece bought to life by musical composer Ludwig Minkus and Marius Petipa’s French and Russian inspired choreography, however, it lacks the exposure and necessary praise that it truly deserves. Soviet-Russian-born prima ballerina Natalia Makarova managed to captivate the American audience for the first time back in 1974.
One of Makarova’s repertoires was staged at The Royal Ballet in 2009, which was screened this week by Francesca Secola from Birkbeck’s Spanish and Portuguese Speaking society. She hosted this open evening to devote time to those who enjoy classical ballet at the college. There were a small group of us from different courses who attended this rare occasion – the majority had not seen the ballet before.
The cast for the ballet included a Latin mix of collaborations underpinning the ethnic connection which Francesca wanted to share. Cuban born, then Royal Ballet principal, Carlos Acosta, played the charming Solor; he has danced numerous times at the Royal Ballet as a highly accomplished talent. Argentinian ballerina Marianela Nuñez led as the devilish rival Gamzatti who steals Solor’s heart with her divine, seductive looks and dancing ravishingly poised yet, with Acosta there seemed to be minimal symmetry Acosta’s portrayal of a confused protagonist, spiraling hopelessly with both Bayadèr and Gamzatti in an ménage a trois scene, did not leave his strength and agility to question though.
Pier Luigi Samaritani’s colourful Indian scenery and Yolanda Sonnabend’s eastern set design added a unique flavor to the classic ballet, not forgetting the small springy bronze idol played by another latino dancer Jose Martin. Yet, it was the Spanish heroine Tamara Rojo that was the star of the stage who proved to be a better match for Acosta, with her natural, seemingly effortless and seamless turns.
Rojo’s performance was exciting to watch. It’s hard for the audience to not marvel at her flexible, sculpted body with her passion for dance. She danced as if it were her last. In the mysterious Kingdom of Shades, twenty-four delicately synchronized dancers concentrated on their arabesque penché, pacing slowly in a harmonious trail of shining tutus, to a dreamy stage of heart-felt strings in the background.
Makarova once said the, “…corps de ballet is the leading role… Yet, the corps must always work together as a unified whole.” This contrasts with the beginning acts’ vitality, variety of post-colonial Indian hues and a collection of gypsy scarfs and high-jumping savagery choreography. Viewing this extravagant work through a DVD, allows the audience to zoom in on techniques that a live performance would not have access to.
After the screening the classroom was lit with content students all saying the words, ‘that was enjoyable!’ Secola is a student ambassador for the Royal Opera House, who promotes their productions to Birkbeck. This screening is the first of many to take place at the university. The intention is to provide an awareness of how accessible the so-called elitist and unaffordable performances at the Royal Opera House are, which can be attainable for a measly tenner.