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On one of the first truly cold nights of this semester, October 24th, I threw on a tulle skirt—ala Carry Bradshaw, or Monet’s romantic ballet dancers—and cabbed it to the historic Boston Opera House for the opening night of Boston Ballet’s La Bayadère. My struggles through the bitter cold wind were not for naught. Principal dancers Lia Cirio and Lasha Khozashvili engrossed the audience in a stunning showcase of physical feat and emotion as doomed lovers Nikiya (a temple dancer) and Solor (a noble warrior). After the free Night of Stars performance on Boston Common, La Bayadère is the company’s premier piece in its 50th season at the Boston Opera House.
La Bayadère transports the viewer into the lavish forests of ancient India where Nikiya and Solor fall in love. Across the first two acts, the viewer watches helplessly as the two are torn apart by the uncontrollable vengeance of the High Brahmin, the Rajah, and his jealous daughter, Gamzatti. And you thought your love life—tinder adventures and all—was tragic! Despite the downward trajectory of their love, Nikiya’s poisoning by the spiteful Brahmin, the viewer is entranced by rich, jewel-toned costume and set and Florence Clerc’s intricate choreography.
The seriousness of the production was punctuated with bits of comedy. Clerc involved young dancers from the Boston Ballet to bound and frolic around the golden idol (danced by Jeffrey Cirio). Also the native people’s flailing arms and uncontrolled appearing, but insanely athletic leaps were refreshing against the abrupt control of the scheming three—the High Brahmin, the Rajah, and Gamzatti.
The completely white third act is a tranquil and tragic conclusion to the brilliant first two acts. Solor woefully induces an opium dream and enters the kingdom of the shades—the corp de ballet transformed into lampshades— where he embraces Nikiya one last time before saying goodbye. The curtains close as Cirio slowly walks away from Khozashvili. I could feel the pain of their lost love with every step. The two leads sweep the audience up in what feels like an honest and tragic tale of love and loss.
The ongoing juxtapositions—love and deceit, evil and innocence, life and death—reminded me of the intertwining plot lines we enact in our daily lives at Emmanuel. If you ever need to escape from the mess that is trying to become a functioning human in college, I recommend escaping into an exhilarating performance by the Boston Ballet. Although La Bayadère is over, they have an exciting lineup for the year ahead. Along with the holiday classic, The Nutcracker (November 29- December 29, 2013) the company has a vibrant mix of modern and classic: Close to Chuck (February 20- March 2, 2014), Sir Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella (March 13- 23, 2014), Pricked (May 8-18, 2014), and George Balanchine’s Jewels (May 22- June 1, 2014).