ballet explained: la bayadère, act I, scene II

In a room in his palace, the Rajah Dugmanta, head of the principality, has decided to reward his favourite warrior, Solor, for his bravery. A gift card seems too impersonal, so the Rajah decides to give Solor his daughter, Gamzatti. When the Rajah tells Gamzatti she’s becoming a trophy wife (literally), and that she’ll be marrying a complete stranger, she’s a little concerned. Concerned until her father shows her a painting of Solor, that is! Gamzatti falls in madly love with the portrait.

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

The Rajah sends for Solor as Gamzatti prepares to meet her fiancé (i.e. puts a veil on). Solor arrives, and Gamzatti is presented to him like the Barna-Bellack Cup. When her veil is removed, Solor is struck by her beauty, and in a moment of – let’s call it forgetfulness – agrees to marry Gamzatti. (People in famous ballets are always getting accidentally engaged to more than one person at a time.) Suddenly, Solor remembers Nikiya, and is thrown into confusion. But for the record, it’s not all that confusing: if you’re already engaged to someone, you probably shouldn’t agree to marry a another someone.

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

Because things happen very quickly when you fall in love for the second time in less than 24 hours, a pre-engagement party breaks out at the palace. It’s not the real party, that will happen later. Some dancing and merry making take place while Solor and Gamzatti play chess. (Which is the worst first date I can imagine, but whatever.)

The High Brahmin arrives, and wants to tell the Rajah a secret. The Rajah is a gossip fiend, so he sends everyone away, which is par for the course at a poorly planned soirée. Gamzatti figures that the High Brahmin’s arrival is somehow connected with her forthcoming marriage, and decides to eavesdrop on the conversation.

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

The High Brahmin tells the Rajah all about Nikiya and Solor’s love, hoping that the Rajah will do away with Solor. The Rajah is majorly pissed, but doesn’t change his mind to give his daughter in marriage to the warrior. Instead, the Rajah decides to kill Nikiya. You see, the Rajah figures Nikiya forced Solor to take the oath, so she should die. This is an interesting argument, as it’s pretty clear that it takes absolutely no force to get Solor to commit to a woman. Even if he’s met her only once.

The High Brahmin’s plan has backfired, so he threatens the Rajah with punishment of the Gods, telling him that if the bayadère dies, the Rajah will die too. But the Rajah gives zero craps, and starts imagining all the ways he can do away with Nikiya. (Poison darts and execution by elephant top his list.)

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

So, an eavesdropping Gamzatti has accidentally-on-purpose heard about Solor’s engagement to another woman. She orders her servant, Aya, to bring Nikiya to her. Aya returns with the bayadère, and Gamzatti can see that Nikiya is wearing a very nice crop top, and could be a dangerous love rival. Nikiya doesn’t know what’s what, of course, and figures she’s just there to book a gig.

Gamzatti tells Nikiya about her impending nuptials, and invites her to dance at her engagement party. Nikiya outlines her rider and technical requirements – standard stuff like a pre-show meal to include lentils (red only), a private bathroom and drinking well, two smoke machines, and proof of event liability insurance. Contracts are signed and then Gamzatti casually-not-so-casually shows Nikiya the portrait of her fiancé, Solor.

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

After confirming that yes, they are indeed engaged to the same nitwit, some major freaking out commences. Gamzatti attempts to bribe Nikiya, offering her jewels to give up Solor. Nikiya refuses, and throws the jewels back in Gamzatti’s face. Things get pretty heated, and some very aggressive pointing and miming breaks out. After exhausting her entire repertoire of menacing gestures, Nikiya grabs a dagger in rage, and frantically attempts to kill Gamzatti. Gamzatti’s slave, Aya, manages to stop her with some wrestling moves she had seen at a tournament the previous week. (She would be promoted to Head of Security the following year.)

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

Nikiya flees in horror when she realizes what she has almost done, and Gamzatti swears to a) destroy her, and b) not give her fiancé back.

To sum:

  • Gamzatti has vowed revenge on Nikiya
  • the Rajah has also vowed revenge on Nikiya
  • the High Brahmin has vowed revenge on the Rajah
  • Solor has vowed to marry two women


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


  1. Brianne on October 1, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I love the tag “destroying dance history.” Is that what this is? Because I think this is just super fun.

    • movita beaucoup on October 1, 2015 at 6:39 pm

      Ballet takes itself very seriously. I think it’s time we… poked the bear!

  2. jenneruth on October 1, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    The tiny portrait of Solor! In the tiny frame! Yes!
    Also, the action shot of Aya is MONEY.

    • movita beaucoup on October 1, 2015 at 6:40 pm

      That portrait took a ridiculous amount of time to make. I’m not complaining – it meant I didn’t have time to clean the toilets.

  3. Liz on October 1, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    Now this is a ballet my hubby would enjoy!!! But he might need those thought bubbles :/

    • movita beaucoup on October 2, 2015 at 10:27 am

      I think we all need those thought bubbles! (Actually, it would prevent people from saying some pretty stupid stuff out loud…)

  4. Rock Salt on October 1, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    So much love for this. I definitely feel more cultured already.

    • movita beaucoup on October 2, 2015 at 10:28 am

      I thought I smelled caviar on your breath!

  5. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef on October 1, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    “A gift card is too impersonal” cracked me up. I love the photos. 🙂

    • movita beaucoup on October 2, 2015 at 10:26 am

      Thanks, Maureen! Did you know that I built a teeny-tiny stage fitted with teeny-tiny stage lights for these productions? Yup. I did.

      (Someone stop me.)

  6. Roger on October 1, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    If all ballet was this cool, I would turn in my tattoos for toe slippers!
    NOT, but I sure would have paid a bit closer attention. Photographing my wife’s ‘simple dessert blog’ is daunting enough, I can’t imagine the work you put into this post.

    Thanks for the cool stories most the rest of us would never read!

    • movita beaucoup on October 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

      Roger, I do it all for the bikers! And sure, it means 4,000 hours of work, but if it makes ballet just that little bit cooler? I’m in!

  7. DogsDontPurr on October 3, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    The detail work you put into this is magical! I didn’t expect to be interested at all, but now I’m addicted. Love it!!

  8. Jenni Field (@PastryChfOnline) on October 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Why are all the peoples in ballets sort of stupid? I don’t know, but it certainly makes for excellent Explanatory posts. And that Aya is one badass slave!

    • movita beaucoup on October 8, 2015 at 6:17 am

      SORT OF stupid?! Mother of pearl, Jenni. They are all sorts of stupid! But I’m grateful. Oh, so grateful…

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