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Hindus seek retirement of culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère” from world stage

Hindus are pleading for permanent retirement of 1877 ballet “La Bayadère” from the world stage, which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that ballet companies should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of “others”; and ridiculing entire communities.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that this deeply problematic ballet was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes.

Ballet companies should show some maturity before selecting a ballet like “La Bayadère” (“The Temple Dancer”) displaying Western caricaturing of Eastern heritage and abetting ethnic stereotyping, Rajan Zed noted.

It was highly irresponsible for ballet companies to choose such a ballet which had been blamed for patronizing flawed mishmash of orientalist stereotypes, dehumanizing cultural portrayal and misrepresentation, offensive and degrading elements, needless appropriation of cultural motifs, essentialism, shallow exoticism, caricaturing, etc. Ballet companies could do better than this to serve the diverse world communities, Zed stated.

Rajan Zed also urged world’s ballet companies and venues hosting ballets to re-evaluate their systems and procedures and send their executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future. Moreover, corporate sponsors should re-think before sponsoring such ballets, Zed pointed out.

Like many others, Hindus also consider ballet as one of the revered art forms which offers richness and depth. But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for retirement; Zed adds.


“La Bayadère” picture from National Theatre Brno website.

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