Houston Meets Canada

By Kalyn Oden, PR Intern
Watch out Canada, La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer) is coming for you! Houston Ballet is currently touring Calgary and Edmonton from April 30 – May 9, 2015 to perform the classic piece La Bayadère. La Bayadère is about the strength of true love: despite conflict, conniving villains, and even death, true love conquers all. Here to discuss the tour of La Bayadère and its famous act: Kingdom of Shades is Demi Soloist Elise Elliott.

Artists of Houston Ballet; La Bayadere (Elise Elliott, Centered); Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Artists of Houston Ballet; La Bayadere (Elise Elliott, Center); Photo by Amitava Sarkar

In your words, what is La Bayadère about?
La Bayadère (The Temple Dancer) is a tragic love story, following two people from different worlds that fall in love. Nikiya is a beautiful Temple Dancer. Solor becomes famous in their society when he kills a tiger that has been tormenting their village. As a thank you, the Rajah offers his beautiful daughter, Gamzatti, to be his wife. However, Nikiya and Solor meet and fall in love, prior to Solor meeting Gamzatti. To rid herself of the threat of Nikiya, Gamzatti and her attendant, Aja, have Nikiya killed. Their love is so strong; however, that Nikiya’s ghost tries to warn Solor of Gamzatti’s deceit. But when Solor is killed by Gamzatti, the gods bring Nikiya and Solor together in death, because their love was so true.

Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Artists of Houston Ballet; La Bayadere; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

Have you danced this piece before?
Yes. This will be the third time that I have performed this version of La Bayadère. But my fifth time performing in the Kingdom of Shades! In my first summer program in San Diego in 2003, I was a Shade and in my third summer program here in Houston in 2006, I performed Nikiya with my now husband, Rhodes, as Solor. I know the Kingdom of Shades very well!

What is it like to travel to other cities/ countries to perform pieces?
Touring is a very exciting, but challenging, part of our season. It is such an amazing opportunity to get to travel, and perform in beautiful theaters around the world for new and enthusiastic audiences. It is always such a rewarding experience. I have been lucky enough to travel to Montreal (once for Madame Butterfly, once for Marie), six cities in Spain, Washington D.C., New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Ottawa (performing Marie)…all in my seven years with the company! And I am looking forward to traveling to Alberta and Germany this season!

Describe the Kingdom of Shades scene and its importance.
The Kingdom of Shades is one of the most idyllic, classic pieces of corps de ballet work in all of classical ballet. In the story of La Bayadère, Solor smokes opium after Nikiya’s death, and he has a vision of her. All of the Shades are actually duplicate images of Nikiya…many wisps of smoke that remind him of her. Because of who the Shades are, it makes performing the role that much more important. Not only do 24 girls have to dance completely together, but the Shades also have to portray the emotions of Nikiya’s love for Solor…all while doing perfect arabesques in perfect lines! It is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, of the classical corps de ballet works.

Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

What were your thoughts/emotions when you found out you’d be dancing Kingdom of Shades?
I was excited to perform Shades again…a little overwhelmed maybe, but excited! The Kingdom of Shades is easily the hardest corps work that I have ever done. Not only does it pose the normal challenges of corps work (staying in line, perfect synchronization, etc), but the choreography is more difficult and needs more stamina than most other ballets. But because of how demanding and exhausting performing Shades is, it is that much more rewarding when you finish it. In that this will be the third time that I have performed this version of La Bayadère, I know what to expect from the ballet, as well as how to prepare for the performances. I have been doing extra cardio outside of regular rehearsals to try to build up my stamina for the 6 shows we will be doing in Canada. Performing this difficult of a ballet on tour poses another challenge, but I am looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment at the end of our run!

Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar
Artists of Houston Ballet; Photo by Amitava Sarkar

What else would you like our readers to know?
Follow the company on Instagram as we tour across Canada with our shows of La Bayadère! We will be posting pictures of our travels, our performances, and the fun we have during our down time between shows. We will be on tour for almost two weeks…I’m sure there will be a lot of fun posts by all of the dancers!

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Houston Ballet will be in Calgary April 30-May 2 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium and in Edmonton May 8-9, 2015 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. For more information and tickets, visit http://albertaballet.com/

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