Queensland Ballet’s La Bayadère
Directed and choreographed by Greg Horsman after Petipa
Music by Ludwig Minkus
Played by The Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Conductor and musical arranger Nigel Gaynor
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
Season: March 16-31. Bookings: qpac.com.au or 136 246
This new production of La Bayadère could go down as Queensland Ballet’s Ballet Master and Head of Artistic Operations Greg Horsman’s masterpiece.
It was an absolute privilege to watch this world premier production unfold. It was sumptuous, spectacular, lavish, elegant and gaspingly beautiful to see and the choreography exquisitely danced by a company at the top of its game. It was classical ballet in its purest form.
This is a ballet I have not seen before, but I could watch this production time and time again. It is set in 19th century India of the Raj. La Bayadère means the Temple Dancer and tells the story of the ill-fated romance between dancer Nikiya and the son of the Maharajah of Coch Bihar, Solor. They plan to run away together but Prince Solor discovers he has been betrothed to Edith the spoiled brat of a daughter of the British Governor General. Sh was nicely danced and acted by Lucy Green. Nikiya is murdered when Solor chooses her instead of Edith.
From then the ballet takes on epic operatic proportions with death and destruction, eternal love, shades from the underworld, political scheming to the depths of despair in an opium den, which was one of the very funny lighter moments in the show.
The story is dramatic and emotional enough, but it is enhanced by amazing costumes and sets by Gary Harris and Jon Bugwell’s superb lighting. There is always something to dazzle in a banquet for the eyes. And add a particularly esoteric score from Ludwig Minkus with its mix of Asian and European sounds and the ballet is even more enchanting.
Each new scene seems to better the one before, but for me the standout was in Act Two. This is Solor’s opium induced dream when he meets Nikiya’s shade (spirit) under a starlit sky in the Himalayas. Then the Shades of the temple dancers who in the past have died for love come slowly onto the stage, drifting down a gentle sloping ramp. There were 20 or more dancers, from the company, Jette Parker Young Artists, trainees, and professional year students from the ballet school, and how beautifully they danced the ethereal moves down the mountain side.
It was breathtaking and I found the choreography in this sequence some of the best of a memorable night.
There were soloist Shades: Teri Crilly, Mia Heathcote, and Yanela Pinera for whom Horsman created some bold and intricate moves.
The lead dancers on the night were company principal dancers Laura Hidalgo as Nikiya and Victor Estévez as Prince Solor. They were two dancers who had then talent and panache to interpret the choreography and danced some exquisite pas de deux and applause winning solos. They were simply magnificent to watch.
The entire company, from opium den thieves to temple dancers male and female had something exciting to add. The company as a whole was so disciplined it was difficult at times to pick the beginners from the professionals. I must also mention the top class acting that came from the cast too.
I have no doubt that this production will be performed many times by many companies. It deserves such a fate.