ballet explained: la bayadère, act I, scene I

famous ballets explained (kind of): la bayadère // movita beaucoup

Solor – a noble warrior
Nikiya – a temple dancer (aka bayadère)
Gamzatti – the Rajah’s (ruler’s) daughter
Magedaveya – a fakir (devoted follower of the temple)
The High Brahmin – the high priest of the temple
Rajah Dugmanta of Golconda – Gamzatti’s dad and ruler of Golconda

. . .

Our story begins at nightfall, just outside an ancient temple in India. A gaggle of warriors, led by Solor, have returned from the hunt of a great tiger. Solor, well known for his combat skills and bravery, is into martial arts, wrestling and playing Snakes and Ladders. The warriors plan to attend the lighting of the sacred fire that night, because their town has no movie theatre and there’s not much else going on. Solor hopes to see his crush, Nikiya, at the big flamefest, because she makes him feel funny in his tummy (in a good way).

Solor asks a fakir named Magedaveya to tell Nikiya (a bayadère) that he will wait for her near the temple that night. He gives Magedaveya a note that reads:

famous ballets explained (kind of): la bayadère // movita beaucoup

Confident that Magedaveya will deliver his message (and that Nikiya will overlook his poor grammar skills), Solor runs off to post selfies of himself with the dead tiger.

famous ballets explained (kind of): la bayadère // movita beaucoup

The High Brahmin and some priests emerge from the temple, and the fire celebration begins. People are pretty excited about the bonfire, and are relieved when no one brings out a guitar and/or insists on a rendition of Michael Row the Boat Ashore. Fakirs and bayadères perform sacred dances which seem to involve a lot of circling the fire, gesturing at the fire, and jumping over the fire. No one seems to care that the fire is made out of red chiffon blowing out of a pile of fake rocks.

The High Brahmin sends for Nikiya, who enters, veiled.

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

The High Brahmin removes Nikiya’s veil and gets a bit… stimulated. Nikiya is used to this sort of thing, so she doesn’t bat an eye. A born performer, she begins to dance very close to the fire, which isn’t normally advisable, but her chiffon costume is unlikely to be singed because the flames are also chiffon. As Nikiya dances, the High Brahmin fondles her veil and makes people at the soirée feel decidedly icky.

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

After she finishes dancing, the High Brahmin proclaims his love for Nikiya, and promises to place all the riches of India at her feet. Unfortunately, Nikiya only likes him as a friend, and suggests that his focus should be on the temple rather than whatever’s happening in his pants. The High Brahmin tries to shake off the rejection without anyone noticing. (Everyone notices.)

The fakirs are quite thirsty after the fire jumping/getting weirded out by the High Brahmin, so Nikiya and the other bayadères give them some water from the sacred pool. As Nikiya is handing out refreshments, Magedaveya discretely tells her that Solor wants to hang out with her post-fire. Around the same time, the party shuts down because a lot of people have already wandered off, and no one wants to be put in charge of clean up.

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

Solor shows up immediately after everyone has left and notices that no one has put out the fire. This is a huge safety risk (theoretically, because chiffon isn’t really that dangerous), but he doesn’t do anything about it because he’s wearing some nice clothes and is quite (theoretically) flammable. Nikiya arrives, excited to meet with Solor. Despite carrying a jug of water on her shoulder, Nikiya doesn’t put out the fire either. No one in this ballet gives a rat’s ass about fire safety.

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

Solor claps his hands in Nikiya’s general direction, she runs into his arms (which is a topic that I won’t delve into right now), and they dance together. (But seriously, would you dance with a guy who clap-demanded that you do so? No. No, you wouldn’t.)

Solor and Nikiya promise themselves to each other, and Solor suggests that they elope. This is because most wedding venues have been booked for the season, and sometimes you just want a small affair anyway. Nikiya tells Solor that he must pledge his fidelity to her before she’ll agree to give him the cheapest wedding of his dreams. It’s hard to say whether it was Nikiya’s exposed midriff or the chiffon fire, but Solor takes the leap and pledges his eternal love to her.

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

Magedaveya has been guarding the secret rendezvous, and interrupts the young lovers to ensure they aren’t discovered. (Let’s face it, if even one of their co-workers finds out about the impending nuptials, they’ll have to invite everyone they know.) Nikiya and Solor scurry off, but I guess fakirs make terrible guards because the High Brahmin has managed to overhear the entire conversation of the sweethearts (mostly because he was eavesdropping). The High Brahmin is jealous, becomes infuriated, and then vows revenge!

famous ballets explained (kind of) // la bayadère // movita beaucoup

On a positive note, I believe the High Brahmin put the sacred fire out before going to bed.


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


  1. Amy on September 23, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I’m working from home today so I actually have time to read and comment!! This is pretty amazing, Movita. I have so many questions tho. One, where did you get all of those perfect little figures to paint (pretty sure you put your artistic touch on them?)? How did you make that facebook thing…did you have to make a real facebook page for that?! haha. Such important questions, as you can obviously see. You’re so creative and funny…love this!!

    • movita beaucoup on September 23, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      Amy, I get the ballerinas through cake decorating suppliers, and then madly hunt for dudes that are no more than three inches tall to partner them with! Then I embellish them with teeny-tiny paint brushes and minuscule accessories, which is why I’m NOW BLIND. As for Solor’s Instagram post, I painstakingly recreated that in a photo editing program. Did it take a million years? Yes. But I did it for you, Amy!

  2. Mike Harvey (@Tw0fl0wer) on September 24, 2015 at 4:05 am

    This is excellent.

  3. thatskinnychickcanbake on September 24, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Destined to be a classic! I love to giggle my way through a tale 🙂

    • movita beaucoup on September 24, 2015 at 7:40 pm

      You’ll be happy to know that Solor and crew will be doing more dumb stuff in the coming days…

  4. jenneruth on September 24, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    I’m glad Nikiya and Solor are such an obviously great couple. It’s amazing how they worked through that “clap-demand for a dance” issue. Ballerinas and pirates, who knew?!

    • movita beaucoup on September 24, 2015 at 7:37 pm

      Yes They are a great couple. But also… there’s so much more to come. So much that is WAY WORSE THAN THE CLAP-DEMAND. Brace yourself!!

  5. Sarah on September 27, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Am I the only one who hopes at some point you end up saying, “Be your own windkeeper, Nikiya!” Because that was totally my first thought when I saw they fakirs were drinking from sacred pools. I’ve wasted my life with television.

    • movita beaucoup on September 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

      I’d be a goddess if the lightning bearers would just quit STEALING MY WIND.

      Television is never a waste.

  6. P.Kiity on September 27, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    The twitter feed….it’s the best. GAAAAAH! I love you.

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

      I love you too, Pussycat!!

  7. themondaybox on September 27, 2015 at 11:28 pm

    Amazing! I am LOVING learning the story of La Batadere in graphic novel…graphic ballet, in this case….form! The figures are amazing! I hope this is giving you joy to create ( it must take FOREVER) because it is a joy to read! Really, you should think about publishing this in printed book format, like graphic novels.

  8. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef on October 1, 2015 at 8:42 pm

    What you do for us is incredible. I will never see a ballet again without thinking how simple you could make it and how much fun.

  9. Jenni Field (@PastryChfOnline) on October 7, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I swear, you win the Entire Hinternets for that IG post!

    • movita beaucoup on October 8, 2015 at 6:19 am

      I’m pretty proud of that, I must say. Blind, but also proud.

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