la bayadère: prefatory remarks

Set in a kingdom in mythical, ancient India, La Bayadère is a story of crop tops, unrequited love, and questionable decision making. It’s a story that could easily be told in five minutes, but has been stretched into a two hour affair with a bunch of characters dancing in roles that have nothing to do with plot development, and entire acts that don’t seem to relate to one another. It’s an ode to glitter, gold, and gauze.

Now, here’s the tricky part: this ballet (as originally staged) has some dodgy bits. Its lavish portrayal of medieval India is historically inaccurate, set to distinctly inauthentic music, and laden with cultural clichés and stereotypes. The religion represented is… I’m not even sure where to start. Cringe-worthy representations of religious figures, and a jumble of sacred fires, opium and sexed-up temple dancers. It’s pretty obvious that Marius Petipa, the choreographer, really got into the idea of harem pants and exposed midriffs, and thought children in blackface might be a nice addition to the show. (It was not.)

lay bayadere // famous ballets explained (kind of) // movita beaucoup

Many dance companies have reworked the ballet, others simply perform snippets or single acts. Some steer clear of it completely. I think we can agree that most famous ballets aren’t exactly steeped in reality or historical accuracy, and you can find many faux pas in the classics. La Bayadère debuted in 1877 – a time when stories about far away places and the exotic were still en vogue in the dance world. Travel and the interwebs weren’t what they are today, so let’s assume that has a little to do with some of the culturally insensitive elements in this ballet. I don’t know that Petipa meant any harm; I do know that he really needed Google.

That said, the act featuring The Kingdom of Shades is one of the most celebrated and beautiful ballet scenes of all time. It is absolutely stunning. Dozens of ballerinas (the Shades) in white tutus descend from a long ramp, sparkling under soft stage lights like moonbeams dancing across the stage. Minimalism at its best and most breathtaking.  

To sum: I KNOW. I know ballet has it’s shortcomings. But I’m quite sure it won’t give you herpes, so this month I will continue my mission to explain/destroy famous ballets with a retelling of La Bayadère. The storyline is hilarious, and will probably do a good job of making you feel better about your life choices. It’s one of the world’s most famous ballets and is still adored by many, including yours truly. It’s a giant sack of stupid, and we’re going to open it next week…


la bayadère | trailer | prefatory remarks | part 1 | part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5 |


  1. tedsart on September 18, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Your post are really funny and very entertaining . . . . . and I really don’t know why. You have a really unique sense of humor. Keep it coming.

  2. Mike Harvey (@Tw0fl0wer) on September 18, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    > It’s one of the world’s most famous ballets

    Really? I find that hard to believe, given that I’ve never heard of it, not that I’m claiming to be an expert. That extract does look pretty though.

    > we’re going to open it next week…

    ‘We’ as in you personally, or your pupils? Either way, good luck.

    • movita beaucoup on September 18, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      Mike, you’ll be responsible for rounding up all the stupid once I let it loose. It will be like herding cats. Good luck to you as well, sir!

    • movita beaucoup on September 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      P.S. I’d say Bayadère is in the top 10 famous ballets – if we’re talking the classics. Not as recognizable as Swan Lake, Nutcracker and Giselle, but this is probably because it isn’t performed by some companies nowadays. I think you’ll get a kick out of it (it’s a great boy meets girl and gets engaged to more than one person at the same time and people die sort of tale)!

  3. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef on September 21, 2015 at 1:38 am

    There are a lot of dancers doing the sack of stupid. It’s beautiful, however I can’t wait to hear how it all works out. I’m making popcorn as I type.

  4. P.Kiity on September 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    There is really no good reason WHY this scene makes me so nostalgically emotional…sheesh! I mean, COME ON.

    • movita beaucoup on September 28, 2015 at 9:41 am

      It’s just so damn beautiful…

  5. Jenni Field (@PastryChfOnline) on October 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

    I have purposely waited until the entirety of Act 1 was up so I could enjoy a very large sack of stupid all at one time. Plus, I’m just behind in my reading. 🙂

  6. Willow | Will Cook For Friends on November 10, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I feel like when most people talk about ballet, they don’t say things like “it’s a giant sack of stupid.” I like that about you — you tell it like it is, while still selling me on it, somehow.

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