ballet explained: la bayadère, act I, scene III

A big engagement party is being held for Solor and Gamzatti in the garden of the Rajah’s palace. There are a lot of guests there, and a number of celebratory dances break out. Like, A LOT. These dances feature a bunch of people that don’t really have anything to do with our story. They are also exactly why people hate engagement parties. Solor and Gamzatti do a little pas de deux, and for a minute, you forget that you kinda hate them and stuff.

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

Nikiya is at the party. (Unfortunately, the performance contract she signed was ironclad.) She is commanded to dance and entertain the guests. She does so because it’s her job, but it’s a pretty somber dance, and she only plays her veena half-heartedly. Also, as she’s dancing she fixes her eyes on Solor, which creates a seriously creepy vibe at the party.

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

Now remember Aya? Gamzatti’s servant? The Rajah tells her to grab a basket of flowers that he has set aside for Nikiya. Aya presents the bayadère with the basket, which Nikiya believes to be from Solor (mostly because Aya kinda implies that they are).

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

Nikiya is overjoyed, and the vibe of her dancing goes from seriously creepy to only slightly creepy. Solor is, as always, confused, and begins miming: babe, I didn’t buy those flowers for you, in Nikiya’s general direction. If Nikiya had bothered to check the card, she would have known that the basket was actually from the Rajah and Gamzatti, which might have given her a clue about the deadly snake concealed beneath the blossoms. Alas, Nikiya is holding the basket a little too close to her face, sniffing her pretty flowers, and bam! The snake strikes! A toxic bite is delivered to her neck.

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

As she’s rolling around on the ground, Nikiya puts two and two together and realizes Gamzatti and/or the Rajah are probably responsible for the venomous blow. Solor tries to help, but the Rajah stops him. Nikiya is writhing and flopping about as the snake’s venom does whatever venom does, and watches as Solor leaves the party with Gamzatti.

I know what you’re thinking: surely, Nikiya won’t die! There are still two more acts in this ballet! Well, the High Brahmin steps forward and offers Nikiya an antidote. Phewf! There is a weeeeeee condition though: he says he’ll only save her life if she will love him forever and ever. So Nikiya dies. Because she’d rather be dead than live without her beloved Solor. And also, she’d rather be dead than live with a dude who keeps forgetting he’s some sort of celibate priest.

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

So, you were wrong. Nikiya is dead. And if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering a) why the High Brahmin walks around with antidotes in his pocket, and b) how it is that Nikiya can still love that asshat, Solor.

I don’t know what to tell you.


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


  1. Jenni Field (@PastryChfOnline) on October 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I am speechless. This is more upsetting than when the offed Drew Barrymore in the first minutes of Scream.

    • movita beaucoup on October 8, 2015 at 6:20 am

      That’s exactly why I don’t watch horror movies. Or anything Disney makes.

  2. Roger on October 7, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Sniff. Sniffle.

  3. jenneruth on October 8, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    That’s what I like about ballets. They don’t mess around. If they want to bump someone off, it happens. None of this suspense nonsense.

    • movita beaucoup on October 9, 2015 at 6:44 am

      Ballet is basically the original Game of Thrones. We don’t care if you really like someone, so killing them off ain’t no thang.

  4. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef on October 9, 2015 at 5:44 am

    You bring this ballet to life but there’s a voice in the back of my head that keeps saying, “How much time did it take to do this?” I have immense appreciation for what you do for us.

    Dying from a snake bite in a basket of flowers sounds like a weird way to go. Why didn’t Aya get bit on her way over, huh??

    • movita beaucoup on October 9, 2015 at 6:42 am

      Don’t worry, Maureen, I don’t have a lot going on in my life, so the hours required to do stuff like this really gives me a sense of purpose.

      Also, there’s a rumour that Aya was a snake trainer back in the day.

  5. Lady tofu on October 19, 2015 at 1:44 am

    I am wondering about the costuming for ballet productions and have multiple questions.

    1.Do they make new costumes, recycle old costumes for each production. How do you clean a glitter tutu and bedazzled bodice, dry clean??

    2. How do you make a that the correct terminology?

    3.I would think that you could work up quite a sweat on stage with the dancing and the lights and all….although I don’t recall ever seeing a sweaty ballerina on stage…..are there trade secrets (potpourri or dryer sheets?) What about pit stains (armpit for the lay person)…I feel like that is unavoidable when you are dancing you butt off?

    ….Hope that is not too weird! I am super loving your ballet posts!!

    • movita beaucoup on October 19, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Each production has costumes specially designed and made. It requires a big team of costume designers and talented craftspeople to put them together. Costumes will be replaced as required (when worn out, damaged, etc.). There are often multiple versions of the same costume to allow for size differences between the soloists, and to allow for cleaning, etc. Most big companies have massive, climate controlled storage spaces!

      Making a tutu is crazy hard. Professional tutus are made by people who have a lot of training and experience. I have a colleague who has been travelling to New York to take workshops. It’s amazing!! It is truly an art form.

      All dancers smell like roses and rarely sweat. But on the rare occasion that we sweat (pit stains), stink up, or get makeup stains on our costumes, the costume department has a variety of tricks up their sleeves for cleaning. They are basically magicians.

      Sometimes ballet companies give tours of their costume departments. They are really cool! If you ever get the chance, you should take advantage! xox

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