BWW Review: ABT Bewitches with La Bayadere' at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
On Friday July 13th, I witnessed the incredible performances of Misty Copeland, Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio as the lead soloists in the mesmerizing and captivating La Bayadere', at the world-renowned Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, at the Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles. ABT was presented as part of the 15th season of Gloria Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center. Thank you, Gloria, for being so generous in your love of Dance. It is a vitally important part of Los Angeles being able to appreciate Dance as one of the primary communicative Arts worth sponsoring and being made available to our entire community. It is more important than ever, as, sadly, our support and funding for the Arts keeps dwindling on especially the National level.
The ballet was first performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1877, Choreographed by Marius Patipa. To this day, versions of this original ballet are still performed even though there have been several other versions that have been created since then along with other revivals of the ballet.
Even if you have never seen the entire production, you may have seen part of La Bayadere. This ballet is most famous for its "white act," commonly known as the Kingdom of the Shades. It is one of the most celebrated excerpts in the classical ballet world. The dance section begins with a line of ballerinas, from all the way upstage, ultimately 32 women in white classic tutus, slowly, purposefully making their way across stage and down ~ diagonally ~ in unison. The combination is simple, the execution is perfection. It involves timing, incredible balance and acute instinct. The dance thoroughly takes your breath away, set underneath a full moon on a balmy dark night, and often performed by itself, always to much critical acclaim. The music, composed by Ludwig Minkus, with special arrangements by John Lanchbery, is gorgeous and haunting in this section and well-recognized everywhere.
Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev staged the show, which was derived from the Mariinsky Ballet's version, in 1941. In 1974, Natalia Markarova first staged the Kingdom of Shades excerpt for ABT, with Cynthia Gregory as Nikiya and Ivan Nagy as Solor. In 1980, Natalia Makarova's version of the entire ballet performed in the American Ballet Theatre was staged across the world; performed by Natalia Markarova as Nikiya, Anthony Dowell as Solor, and Cynthia Harvey as Gamzatti. That production also incorporated parts from Chabukiani and Ponomarev's version.
Since its origination, other productions have been performed throughout the world. During 1991, Rudolf Nureyev of the Paris Opera Ballet revived the show based on the traditional Ponomarev/Chabukiani version. His production was presented at the Paris Opera, or Palais Garnier, in 1992. In it, Isabelle Guérin played Nikiya, Laurent Hilaire was Solor and Élisabeth Platel performed as Gamzatti. The Kirov/Mariinsky Ballet launched a new production of Petipa's 1900 revival of La Bayadère in 2000.
One of the world's great dance companies, American Ballet Theatre (ABT) has built a repertoire unmatched by any other company. On its 11th visit to The Music Center, ABT is superb in their execution and exactness of the original. Misty Copeland seems to add another dimension to the already famous Ballet. She gives an impassioned turn as Gamzatti, the Radjah's daughter, and is flawless in her portrayal and performance of the character and the choreography. Self-assured and deliberate, she embodies the feelings of conflict of what is expected of her royal status and her inner feelings of jealousy, compassion and love. The other soloists are equally entrancing, and although ideally, I would have liked to have seen all three performances with different soloists performing the leads, it was very gratifying to see there is no compromise in the presentation of centuries-old classic and brilliant ballets.
Isabella Boynton was equally superb in the role of Nikiya, the Temple Dancer. She dances with such ease and lightness, hitting every line, every movement fulfilled, and every emotion conveyed.
Jeffrey Cirio, as Solor, was outstanding in his execution of the difficult leaps, pirouettes and turns required, and was spellbinding in his different solo and partnering turns, garnering gasps from the audience in appreciation and awe.
Another vibrant performer during this performance was Joseph Gorak, as the Bronze Idol, who was not a character in the original ballet. Flashy and compelling, with a costume that looked as if it was painted on, in shimmering gold, gave a fascinating, showy performance. The additional Principal Dancers performing this past weekend were Hee Seo, Cory Sterns, Gillian Murphy, Devon Teuscher and Christine Shevchenko, some of which are shown in the photos here.
The costumes, by Theoni V. Aldredge, of Academy Award fame, and the Scenery and Lighting Effects, by PierLuigi Samaritani and Toshiro Ogawa, respectively, were unparalleled; luxuriant, florid and richly-colored. They were a feast for the eyes.
The tradition of passing along original choreography from inception is extremely vital in the world of Ballet. Innate to most all Dancers I've ever known, is the longing to know what preceded what you are performing and preserving that which came before. Paying homage to those who paved our way, is also innate in artistic beings. I see little touches of homage in generations going by. For a Company to keep evolving and growing, it needs that component, and ABT fills that bill completely.
All of the Principals and the Corps were extremely polished and thorough in their interpretation of the many dramatic occurrences during this ballet, both through their movements and their demeanor. Coupled with the superb quality of the entire Company, it's a magical and mystical tale of unrequited love, that keeps you rapt with attention through the finale.
Fall under the spell of the bewitching story of eternal love, mystery, fate and justice set in the legendary High Court of Royal India. La Bayadère portrays the love story of the temple dancer Nikiya, her lover Solor and the vengeance that keeps them apart. With elaborate set designs and lavish costumes that conjure up exotic locales, La Bayadère (meaning Temple Dancer) unveils a world of noble warriors, royal deceit and beautiful dancing.
The photos within this article are a mixture of the three different soloist casts, different for each of the three evenings the ballet was performed.
Photos courtesy of Gene Schiavone, MIRA, Rosalie O'Connor and Marty Sohl.