The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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This is the Bayadere I saw November 10, 2016

Long, long ago, with this cast, I think, during a Chicago ABT residence (they used to do 2 to 3 week residences in Chicago once a year).  Maybe Gamzatti was danced by another ballerina** (this one has Cynthia Harvey, who originated the role in this production):  But the rest of the cast was the same.

La Bayadere, ABT

I’ve always really liked Makarova’s production of this ballet, as it doesn’t end abruptly after the Kingdom of the Shades, and the music during the “manic” part of Nikiya’s death scene makes much more sense than the music in most productions.  It flows better.  And the fight scene between Nikiya and Gamzatti is actually A FIGHT, not two primas pirouetting and jete-ing past each other and then all of a sudden a knife appears.

Plus, there’s the amazing clarity of Dowell’s acting in this particular performance, making sense of Solar.  A lot of Solar’s don’t make sense.  For that matter, in many productions the role of Gamzatti leaves the performer far too much leeway as to whether Gamzatti is evil or not.  This production leaves no wiggle room; here, Gamzatti is a spoiled brat at best and a murderous bully at worst.  (If she’s a just a nice girl caught in a bad situation, and motivated only by infatuation, why do the gods kill her at the end?)

I noticed that Makarova did not make it all the way through this performance; in the Kingdom of the Shades through the end, Marianna Tcherkassky took over.  I seem to remember that this particular performance was a PBS broadcast (?) and there was some obnoxious socialite doing backstage interviews, and at one point she interviewed Makarova (hideously mispronouncing her name, something like “matalica maccarrroova”), gushing “are you hurt???”  As I remember, Makarova just sort of stared at her before making a very terse reply…

As a side note, many dancers did not survive Baryshnikov’s reign as AD, which began a few years after this broadcast.  First casualty was a two-decade corps dancer*** (about whom it is said Baryshnikov made nasty jokes after her departure); there followed many others such as Martine Van Hamel and Anthony Dowell.  Gelsey Kirkland can also be counted among the casualties, but this was mostly her own doing.  And then there was the tragedy of Patrick Bissell.

On the other hand, Cynthia Harvey’s career soared after Baryshikov became AD.

**Memory kicked in.  Yes, Gamzatti was danced by another dancer in the performance I saw.  I can’t remember her name right now.  (See comments for clarification.)

***I had previously misidentified this dancer; the dancer I named was actually a soloist at ABT and the girlfriend of Patrick Bissell.  She had the awful experience of finding him after he died.  I apologize for the name mix-up.

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4 Responses to “This is the Bayadere I saw”

  1. Bayadere has always been cursed for me. First time I saw it was at the Bolshoi with Volochkova dancing Nikiya and I was very sick that day, and it did not help watching Kingdom of Shades when you are already out of it to begin with. Second time was ABT when I had just been laid off that very day, so I was in a bad mood and the Kingdom of Shades scene again was trying my patience. Third time was again ABT (free tickets) and I got caught in a rainstorm so spent the entire time drying out.

  2. Ellis Amdur Says:

    You wrote “Yes, Gamzatti was danced by another dancer in the performance I saw. I believe she was a new principal who had recently joined ABT from the Boston Ballet” – Could it have been French ballerina Magali Messac, who joined about 1980 from the Pennsylvania Ballet as a principal & danced both Gamzatti and Nikiya at various times? (here she is in the latter, in a small clip of the first act with Kevin McKenzie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hw_c40j519A)


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