The Joffrey Ballet brings us another full length story-book ballet as part of their Masters of Dance season. La Bayadère: The Temple Dancer takes us to a mythical Indian land, complete with lavish costuming, grand sets by Peter Farmer and even live snakes. The tale is classic forbidden love, with Nikiya the temple dancer (portrayed by leading lady Victoria Jaiani on opening night) and the object of her affection Solor (played by Dylan Guiterrez). The two fall in love despite Nikiya devoting herself solely to the Gods, and Solor being forced into an engagement with the Rajaha’s daughter Gamzatti, played by the lovely April Daly. To further complicate matters, the High Priest Brahmin (played by the towering Fabrice Calmels in a more villainous role than usual) is also after Nikiya. Alliances are made and broken as the characters fight to get what they want or seek revenge when they cannot.
The updated work is choreographed by Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch, who re-imagined the classic story and condensed it down from Marius Petipa's original pantomime based choreography. “136 years after its creation, I sought a fresh way of telling the story,” says Welch. He did, however, retain Petipa’s full “Kingdom of the Shades” scene in the third act. The dream sequence lagged a bit, feeling rather long and repetitive at points, which is understandable as the only untouched scene. There’s no denying the beauty in its synchronization, with all 26 ensemble dancers in handmade white tutus. The segment, reminiscent of the moonlit second act of Giselle, is hypnotic with simple yet challenging steps.
Nine performances remain of La Bayadère through Sunday, October 27. For showtimes, visit the Joffrey’s website. Tickets range from $31 to $152. All performances take place at Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress).
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