From June 8-18, Houston Ballet brings Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère back to the Wortham. With a rich score by Ludwig Minkus, lavish scenery and bright costumes by the late Peter Farmer, La Bayadère features mesmerizing classical performances highlighted by the famous Shades scene, staged for the entire corps de ballet.
Tickets can be purchased through our website. Final casting will be announced online before the premiere.
Live snakes, opium dreams, a crashing temple, and a touch of contemporary Bollywood make up Stanton Welch’s colorful staging with of La Bayadère, an iconic classical ballet from the late 19th century. La Bayadère dramatizes the love story between Nikiya the temple dancer and the brave warrior Solor, and the vengeance that keeps them apart–at least in this life.
Don’t miss tonight’s (5/30) Dance Talk “TuTus Inside/Out” at 7pm at our Center for Dance. Join us for our last Dance Talk of the 2016/17 season and a close-up look at La Bayadère‘s infamous Kingdom of the Shades scene.
All of our Dance Talks are free and open to the public!
Act III of La Bayadère is one of the most iconic and recognizable, with the entire corps de ballet in white classical tutus. What is the history and evolution of the tutu? What are the modern variations? And how are they made? Houston Ballet’s Wardrobe Department takes the stage to answer these questions and more.
For a long time, only sections of this Russian ballet circulating on stage. Natalia Makarova’s famous U.S. premiere of the “Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère at American Ballet Theatre in 1947 was one of the first restaged ballet productions for American dancers and audiences.
Full-length productions of La Bayadère have always been particularly difficult to produce and require a large, proficient corps de ballet. Legendary performances of this ballet have been given by the originating company, the Bolshoi Ballet, as well as the Paris Opera Ballet, Kirov Ballet, Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, American Ballet Theatre, Dutch National Ballet, and others.
La Bayadère holds a special place in the hearts of many ballet lovers because of its timeless love-story and breathtaking classical choreography. It was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa in the 19th-century as a Westernized vision of ancient South Asia, but this ballet survives as a ritual for ballet dancers worldwide.
Famed dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov once said, “Poetically it is unmatched in the classical repertory.” Prominent dance writer Arlene Croce wrote, “Ballets, passed down the generations like legends, acquire a patina of ritualism, but La Bayadère is a ritual, a poem about dancing and memory and time. Each dance seems to add something new to the previous one, like language being learned. The ballet grows heavy with this knowledge, which at the beginning has been only a primordial utterance, and in the coda it fairly bursts with articulate splendor… It’s the corps’ ballet…” (The New Yorker, 1974).
Houston dancers and audiences have cherished La Bayadère‘s scenario and score in all its forms. Before Welch’s full-length production, former Artistic Director Ben Stevenson had produced a subdued Act III-only “Kingdom of the Shades” production in 1994, which featured Carlos Acosta as Solor and Martha Butler as Nikiya and closely followed Makarova’s iconic one-act production from ABT.
It goes without saying that our company dancers are hard at work, rehearsing each Act of La Bayadère nearly every day in between final performances of The Tempest. For a full-length classic like this one stamina and precision are on every one’s minds. Company and HBII women cast in the Shades scene receive special rehearsals for Act III while lead roles like Solor, Nikiya, Gamzatti, and the Gods fine tune their solos and pas de deuxs.
Stanton Welch’s glittering full-length production was created exclusively for the company. It premiered in 2010 with the main cast of Sara Webb as Nikiya, Connor Walsh as Solor, and Kelly Myernick as Gamzatti. Since its world premiere, Houston Ballet has taken this production on tour to Canada in 2015 and is in the repertory of the Australian Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. You can learn more about the origins of our production from Principal dancer Connor Walsh, Ballet Master Louise Lester, and Maestro Ermanno Florio in our 2012 promo here.
This 2017 run of Welch’s La Bayadère is especially important for us as it was the last full-length production designed by our friend Peter Farmer, who passed away at the start of this year. Peter Farmer designed for three of our Artistic Directors with dozens of full-length and one-act commissions, starting with Frederic Franklin’s Coppélia in 1979 and ending with Stanton Welch’s La Bayadère in 2010.
On Farmer’s designs for La Bayadère Stanton Welch noted, “Peter’s scenic design is not a realistic depiction of India. It’s like looking through an old picture book from western culture with a view of romanticized India… a very painterly look.” Farmer’s many-colored costumes of turquoise, coral, purple, and gold dominate the contemporary Bollywood-inspired designs with embellished woven cord, lamé, pearls, and ruby-coloured glass stones. His backdrop designs were all traditionally conceived and constructed by hand to create the illusions of a temple tucked away in a jungle and a grand palace overlooking the Ganges River.
We’re dedicating all of our performances of La Bayadère to the memory of Peter Farmer, a longtime Houston Ballet collaborator and lover of the arts worldwide. Be sure to take a look at our Peter Farmer Tribute in the Lobby at the Wortham Theater before and after performances of La Bayadère.
This year’s debuts in principal roles of La Bayadère include Yuriko Kajiya as Gamzatti and Nikiya, Jared Matthews as Solor, Charles-Louis Yoshiyama as Solor and Agni, Chun Wai Chan as Solor and Garuda, Soo Youn Cho as Gamzatti, Jacqueline Long as Gamzatti, Katharine Precourt as Gamzatti, Harper Watters as Garuda, and Hayden Stark as Agni, among dozens of exciting roles for the entire company!
Enjoy our character videos below to learn more about the classical roles of Nikiya from principal Karina Gonzalez and Solor from principal Connor Walsh.
We’re pleased to honor the late designer Peter Farmer and excited to end our 16/17 season with this extravagant and dramatic classical ballet.
Catch La Bayadère at the Wortham on June 8, 10, 16, and 17 at 7:30 pm and June 11, 17,and 18 at 2:00 pm.