Prize for Ballet 2019


12 / 08

La Bayadère

Opera Ballet Vlaanderen

Ballet Vlaanderen - La Bayadère


Daniel Proietto has built his new version of "La Bayadère" starting from his fascination for the famous ballet blanc scène “The Kingdom of the Shades” and the apotheosis at the end of the ballet. What could this ultimate dream-sequence of perfect harmony in this 19th century orientalist fairy-tale mean today? Delving into the original source material, Proietto found that Marius Petipa was inspired by Gustave Doré’s illustrations of Dante’s "The Divine Comedy". The sculpted bodies of the damned souls, as envisioned by Doré, encouraged Proietto in his vision of a “Harmony of Chaos”. This place of unity is inhabited by souls not in a geometric harmony but rather in a celebration of human life in all its universal diversity.

Returning to Indian traditions, there is a surprisingly large amount of realistic references in the original libretto. The desire of Proietto is to highlight these and to get rid of the 19th century colonialist western gaze upon this rich culture. The devadasi, temple dancers that were named bayadères by the west (>Portugese bailadeira), were servants in temples, dancing to make the energy between god and man visible. The emotion that was evoked is described by the term Rasa: a mental state that is realised by experiencing an artform bringing about the dissolution of the ego and the appearance of the universal contemplative self. This philosophical notion is best compared to the Aristotelian notion of catharsis, the emotional purification by the collective experience of an artwork.

The devadasi dancer Nikija, the main character in "La Bayadère", becomes an androgynous theatre performer in Daniel Proietto’s translation. Although in connection with the power to move an audience in the highest way, she is still outcast by a misogynist society, with no room for what can be described for Nikija and her forbidden lover Solor as a genuinely true love. Two strong powers fight against them: the first being religious traditions (personified by the Braham) and secondly a political power (personified by the Raja).

This new creation of "La Bayadère" delves into the original source material that inspired Marius Petipa for his creation in 1877: the drawings by Gustave Doré, but also the illustrations made of the visit by the Prince of Wales (son of Queen Victoria) to India and printed in European magazines and the accounts of the touring of real devadasi in a.o. France, England and Belgium in mid 19th century. This in order to analyse what this western colonialist gaze upon this specific aspect of Indian culture was. A second research is that of Indian culture as such. Through the analysis of the role devadasi played in religious and cultural aspects of society, Daniel Proietto’s goal is to reach a true universal essence of the character.

A profound understanding of this culture and the link to the original "La Bayadère" and its performance history (Chabukiani/Ponomarev, Makarova, Nureyev, Ratmansky) is crucial in developing a contemporary view on this classic ballet. Daniel Proietto will travel to India two times to study the classical Indian dance forms Kuchipudi and Kathakali. He will do so together with his artistic advisor Shantala Shivalingappa. The aim for this "La Bayadère" is to create a universal work, focusing on the main theme of authentic love, free from political or religious dogma, and incorporating western and Indian traditions.

The music, newly composed by Swedish composer Mikael Karlsson, will not be an adaptation of the original by Ludwig Minkus, nor will it be a western take on Indian music. It will, just like the choreography and staging, focus on the universal motives of the piece to create a very personal new composition, including orchestral music, electronics, innovative percussion methods, live-singing embedded within a broad stylistic landscape.

Artistic Team

Artists from around the world will work on this piece for Ballet Vlaanderen. Daniel Proietto with a background in classical ballet as well as in contemporary dance and Eastern dance-styles, Mikael Karlsson from Sweden as a high level contemporary composer who will write a totally new score for orchestra, Nicolás Boni as a set designer from Argentina, Tamae Hirokawa, a costume designer from Japan, Shantala Shivalingappa from India as an artistic advisor, and Koen Bollen as dramaturge from Belgium. They all bring their individual cultural heritage and artistry to this project.

Daniel Proietto

Daniel Proietto


Mikael Karlsson

Mikael Karlsson


Nicolas Boni

Nicolas Boni

Set Designer

Tamae Hirokawa

Tamae Hirokawa

Costume Designer

Shantala Shivanlingappa

Shantala Shivanlingappa

artistic advisor

Koen Bollen

Koen Bollen


Co-producing Partners

The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet



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