Hindus want to cancel La Bayadère ballet

Hindus want to cancel La Bayadère ballet


norman lebrecht

April 27, 2021

A Hindu cleric has called on the Paris Opera Ballet t stop ‘callously promoting the appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of ‘others’ and ridiculing entire communities.’

He is referring to the ballet La Bayadère.

This is the thin edge of a wedge.

Read Grham Spicer’s Gramiilano.


  • JayBee says:

    Let’s cancel Lakmé, Maometto Secondo, l’Italiana in Algeri and every single other, opera, ballet, symphony or any white, euro, male dominated piece of music ever composed to appease the wrath of everyone who thinks it’s intolerant. *barf*

    • CA says:

      Yes, let’s just cancel everything. Including life in such a ridiculous society as we now live in. If people are $&@# offended then don’t go hear the music or see the show. Period!

    • José Bergher says:

      How about:

      “Turandot” by Puccini
      “Turandot” by Busoni
      “The Land of Smiles” by Lehar
      “Madama Butterfly” by Puccini
      “Iris” by Mascagni
      “Il gran Tamerlano” by Mysliveček
      “Der Barbier von Bagdad” by Cornelius
      “Le roi de Lahore” by Massenet
      “The Transposed Heads” by Peggy Glanville-Hicks.
      “Alessandro nelle Indie” by Paccini
      “The Last Savage” by Menotti
      “La leggenda di Sakùntala” by Alfano
      “Semiramide” by Rossini
      “Semiramide” by Mysliveček

      • Ms.Melody says:

        Don’t forget The Mikado, Rondo Alla Turca and the ethnic dances in The Nutcracker

      • Philip says:

        Indeed, and just with regard to Puccini, why stop there?! La Fanciulla del West represents intolerable appropriation of American redneck / miner culture (not to mention also of Mexican, native American, etc etc zzzzz…..)

    • bgn says:

      I would sympathize with you except that La Bayadere is a terminally silly, musically and dramatically thin piece of orientalizing kitsch, which wouldn’t get performed if ballet companies weren’t desperate for full-length story ballets (beyond Giselle, Coppelia & the Tchaikovsky three) with some measure of familiarity. It’s not as if we were talking about, oh, Padmavati or something with substance.

      But I suppose these days even terminally silly kitsch must be defended aganist the barbarians…

  • I find it interesting that an article about a ballet can not mention the composer of the score even once.

    I had to go look it up as I had never heard of this ballet before.

    Ludwig Minkus.

    Since it is not an accurate depiction of Hindu culture and doesn’t need to be regarded as that for the story or the choreography to work, how about just doing as Wagner did and say it is set in “legendary times”?

    Change the names in the printed program and say it is set in the fictional “Hyborian Age” of Conan the Barbarian, for example.


    • Novagerio says:

      It’s propably the Hindu Dance that has upset the guru.
      And speaking about Léon Minkus, as a Spaniard I take “offense” of his other ballet Don Quixote…
      It’s “Hispanism” according to the tourists (!)

      • The View from America says:

        I think it’s criminal that Ludwig Minkus is being referred to as “Léon.” This is ethno-cultural appropriation of the worst sort.

  • HSY says:

    The principal role of Nikiya in La Bayadère is one of the most celebrated and difficult ballerina roles ever created. Here is Isabelle Guérin dancing her death scene in the Paris Nureyev production in question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mwqSuTqXR0

    And the iconic Shades scene from the same Paris production: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rihCj92hBko

    Petipa using pre-British Indian culture and religion as a reductive backdrop for the ballet is unfortunate, but it would be a shame if they have to retire this production or even remove the ballet from repertoire entirely.

  • J Barcelo says:

    I am totally opposed to banning or destroying works of art on the stupid premise of “cultural appropriation” and all the other crimes the cleric is accusing the Paris Opera Ballet of. Where does it end? And what’s the point? Why not try to learn about how other cultures interpreted each other in a much more naive, simpler time?

    On the other, I am all in favor of banning anything and everything of Minkus! What miserable music he wrote.

  • Novagerio says:

    Welcome to Western Society Mr.Guru, and welcome to the Ballet and L’Opéra (!)

    And try to boycott the beautiful Les Pêcheurs de Perles while you’re at it, or just any 19th century music that evokes exotism! – Believe me, you’ll need a lot of time!

  • John Borstlap says:

    The immense scale of appropriation of Western artifacts, ideas, customs, science, technology, fashion, vacuum cleaners, atom bombs, hand bags, motorcycles, etc. etc. by Hindus in India is also a cultural appropriation. And yet, nobody complains about THAT.

    • BrianB says:

      In fact, it would mean the entire end of the Bollywood film industry since film is a Western invention and cultural development.

      • Ashu says:

        By this reasoning, the fact that the concept of zero originated in India would render the whole of non-Indian science and technology one enormous cultural appropriation, an argument that is as popular here in India as the equally stupid “science is Western” argument is in the West.

    • Ashu says:

      People like the guru believe that all civilization originated in India. Although this doctrine is delusional and ignorant in this extreme form, it is nevertheless solidly founded on the demonstrable fact that India’s civilization developed far earlier than Europe’s and put premodern Europe’s achievement to shame in many domains, and that European civilization’s achievements were overwhelmingly based on an ingenious development of knowledge inherited from more ancient non-European civilizations.

      • Saxon says:

        So what. Why does that matter.

        Sure the people of north-western Europe were rather primitive in 200 BC, and weren’t a whole lot better in 700 AD. But they were probably more scientifically advanced in 1300 AD (they had to export something to pay for eastern spices), and the technological advantage had become very clear by 1600. The non-west is still playing catch-up now, and have narrowed the gap over the last 100 years. But so what.

  • The View from America says:

    A particularly chilling aspect of “cultural appropriation” accusations these days is their eerie similarity to events of yesteryear.

    It’s what many Germans were saying about Jewish composers, writers and artists “appropriating” Deutsche Kultur: “How DARE those people PRESUME to imitate our authentic German cultural heritage with their empty, phony efforts? It should be offensive to the sensitivities of every true German!”

    • John Borstlap says:

      Indeed, there’s a component of fascism in those idiotic accusations. But like fascism, they are born from ignorance and hatred.

  • Anthony Sanderson says:

    They will never be satisfied. Even the new West Side Story is in for it. “The New York Times was moved to double down on the kind of discomfort Rodriguez ( a Puerto Rican academic) had voiced in February 2020 and ran an opinion piece simply headlined, “Let West Side Story and Its Stereotypes Die”. Accusations both Stateside and here since then have spoken of the musical’s “whitewashing” of the Puerto Rican experience”. from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/west-side-story-pillories-america-not-puerto-rico/

    Martin Luther King’s comments about judging a man by the content of his character not the colour of his skin as containing microagression.

  • Kathleen King says:

    Insane. Intolerable.

  • JJC says:

    The thin edge of a wedge is easily obliterated by a sledge hammer, the blow eagerly awaited.

  • Anon says:

    A big difference between “Hindus want to” (100’s of millions of people) and a single Hindu cleric calling for something.
    I bet most Hindus have never heard of this ballet.

    • John Borstlap says:

      But that can easily be set right. It’s a bit like the mohamed cartoons which for certain groups of ignorant people in far-away countries are far more shocking than beheadings, torture and terrorism.

  • Giustizia says:

    “stop ‘callously promoting the appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of ‘others’ and ridiculing entire communities.’”
    The Hindu cleric should therefore abide by the same règles. That means renounce using European concepts like the telephone, internet, email, TV, recording, airplanes, antibiotics, in fact the entire apparatus of Western civilization. Fair is fair.

  • Marion Bayley says:

    This is so sad a story.

    In my opinion, La Bayadere is one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring ballets – I know others disagree, and that is healthy.
    What isn’t healthy is condemning it because it is seen to run contrary to a given belief – in one person’s view.
    Every major religion could each condemn certain ballets and opera because they run contrary to belief – and probably have done so.
    Others have already mentioned works that we would lose if extremists have their way.

    There are many ballets, opera, paintings, books etc., that i dislike or with which I disagree. For me to condemn them or call for them to be destroyed or not performed is to deny others of the pleasure they DO receive from them – an act of anarchy.

    I am really sorry for this Hindu cleric and the abuse he is receiving for his faith but it is wrong for him to try to impose that on the rest of us.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Well said.

      The irony is that there is nothing in Hinduism that prohibits acceptance of a ballet plot in a foreign country where the local culture some 100 years ago did not quite follow Hindi ideas.

      • Ashu says:

        [The irony is that there is nothing in Hinduism that prohibits acceptance of a ballet plot in a foreign country where the local culture some 100 years ago did not quite follow Hindi ideas.]

        Pardon me, but what would you know about it. And incidentally, Hindi is the name of a language, not a synonym of the adjective Hindu.

  • Zenreader says:

    As someone who was really excited to watch the Bolshoi production of La Bayadere on Blu-Ray for the first time, I was unable to finish watching when I was blindsided by the young girls dancing in black and brown face. I know Russia does not have the same history of black/brown face, but seeing people wear dark skin as a costume and dance in jerky ways that appear mocking was deeply shocking and uncomfortable and made me feel inhuman to the people who made it on a purely artistic level. I realize I’m opening myself up for ridicule here, but I don’t think making modifications to existing art to make it more fitting of modern sensibilities necessarily ruins that art, it just makes it different. Art is constantly changing and ballet should change with it. It doesn’t have to be all at once, and even though I myself couldn’t finish watching it (or at least this production in particular), I would hate to see La Bayadere disappear altogether. But I also can’t say people who feel it is disrespectful to their culture are completely in the wrong either. People conflating modern inventions and innovations with cultural customs that have deep personal and societal meanings are completely missing the point.

  • John Borstlap says:

    I guess this cleric has read, or has heard about, Edward Said’s influential book ‘Orientalism’, in which he condems Western attempts to understand ‘the East’ which Westerners can never, never, no really never even BEGIN to understand. Westerners, according to Said, project their own prejudices upon everything Eastern, distort all Eastern culture in their own interpretation, they paint the Eastern person as ‘the Other’, and simply picks-out little things from ‘the Other’s culture’ to exploit them for their own enjoyment, which is cultural imperialism or cultural appropriation. Also, all Western research of Eastern cultures was and is serving Western political ends, which are imperialist.

    Said was entirely ignorant of the serious research done by Western anthropology which – contrary to his generalized ignorant idea – show a deep understanding of ‘the East’. So, Said was not a true professional scientist but exploited the Western guilt feelings about the political exploitation by the West of the East. And made a nice career out of his misconceptions, even tricking Daniel Barenboim into respect.

    It does not come as a surprise to find that Said was heavily influenced by postmodern theory, which is a fast-working solvent of any intelligence that may have been present.