SHOBANA JEYASINGH DANCE; BAYADÈRE - THE NINTH LIFE @ SADLER’S WELLS

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ZM 29/10/17

SO, from what i gathered, Bayadère - the Ninth Life by Shobana Jeyasingh Dance is a ballet; a remaking/reference/reclamation of La Bayadère; a 19thC ballet by Marius Petipa. A Bayadère is an Indian temple dancer, apparently. I saw it at Sadler’s Wells, a fancy North London dance place for fancy middle class white ppl. None of this is rly useful information, tl;dr::: this ballet takes an old Orientalist work and shakes it down, reclaims it for the main body represented within it, makes it belong to the body itself. Nice!

 

Shobana’s version, the one i saw, starts out in a hotel room in Mumbai, a business man is on his phone texting his friend in England. His friend describes La Bayadère as a ballet he saw last night with his girlfriend. a smol filmy screen with a projection of the whatsapp conversation. I am too busy reading i don’t notice that the businessman is now lying down, watching a dramatic retelling also. As his friend introduces the characters, they appear; in the flesh, only to be replaced by framed gifs (o so slowly). this shift is jarring, i have my hand to my face and i am leaning forwards. La Bayadère is the story of a temple dancer that falls in love with a warrior, who is in turn then betrothed to a princess. The King has the temple dancer killed for the petulance of loving something that is not her own. The warrior, distraught, smokes some opium and sees his beloved, the Bayadère, the temple dancer, in a land of shadows and ghosts; Nirvana. She ascends to this mystical, smoky paradise that exists in the star-lit clouds of the Himalayas; an afterlife for women as unfortunate as her. (this is so a la Lost Horizon, a book about an Englishman that ~stumbles upon Shangri-La) The lovers are reunited amongst the stars, the moon as witness, and as his hallucination fades; she slips away. (the characters are tbh unimportant). (the fact of the ballet is that it is an Orientalist work about a woman, that delicious crossover that Orientalism does so well - of racism and sexism - of the dusky female, odalisque, lady in the harem, always naked or half-clothed or undressing, always in an interior;;;;;;; from this we read that we, the viewer, are peeping toms, voyeurs, intruding on a private moment where she is at rest. We see beneath the burqa a la Lady Gaga. The veil lifts n we are witness to something special. Something only we have seen. we r privileged with a ~sight~ TM. The act of looking has gone beyond action and into aggression. Lady, Shangri-La. Sacred space or sacred body. All the same, grounds for reasonable conquest. Women are often like land masses, we are always fair game to be invaded, conquered, plundered. How delicious when they cross over and ur body is tied to ur land by the fact of its shade. We are all exceptional and deserve to see, to conquer, intrude.) (the important bit to remember is that the original La Bayadère represents a magical mystical culture, so far from our own, we are lucky to witness this beautiful performance. We are so privileged to watch this mysterious thing kept under wraps for so long, to watch this unravel before our own eyes!) (do u get where i’m going with that) (the act of looking, of watching, passive; this is often aggressive. this is often a type of violence. Both the figure of the odalisque in these stupid paintings, and the spectacle of this stupid ballet; the idea of lifting the veil on something “never seen by Europe before” are a type of violence. If u don’t get that, idk how to explain it to u better. Try again)~~~~ the First Act is done. 

 

~~~~~~~~the scene shifts. A man wearing a suit is stripped by a line of white dancers. He is handed a pair of pink harem pants. The brown skin on his back glistens in the light n it is warm n yellowy gold; everything is very warm all of a sudden;;;; there are a series of exchanges and i don’t follow; my attention slips and all of a sudden the stage is gold and there’s a gold frame within which the ex-suited man sits. He’s lying on his side; a la Odalisque. There r a series of movements that recreate those paintings, those stupid paintings. It feels uncomfortable, sexual; a kind of awkward, forced seduction. then gradually gradually throughout the act; the power balance shifts. It stops being the white dancers moving his limbs about and into positions; to him fighting them off.//// His movements become defensive and a radius forms around him. He has space to breathe and be~~. 

Audio starts playing. It is an obnoxious sounding man reading (what i now know 2 be) the writing of “””””celebrated French writer Thèophile Gautier””””””” 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “something unknown to Europe, something entirely new” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “sunshine, perfume, beauty” That’s what’s fucking new to Europe mate, if u kno wot i mean, eh? ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ his writing describes his impressions of an unknown n unaccredited, anon, indian temple dancer (a Bayadère. apparently.) ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ he describes her body like it is an object, like it is a landscape ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ about her skin, “brown and soft, velvety, tan like a deer pelt” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ about her teeth “white teeth, contrasting and brilliant, with which she once tried to crack the glass cherries from my friend’s bonnet. It was the only savage action we ever saw her commit.~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ i am appalled. 

After the performance, Shobana Jeyasingh gave a post-show talk. I stayed bc the seat was comfy and i was baffled by what i’d just witnessed. It was mostly about the mire of Orientalism n its nonsense. But then,,,,, but then,,, Shobana said something that like;; flicked the switch on in my head. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ “Whenever u put a body on stage, ur like objectifying it” i’m paraphrasing “anyway, it’s a corporeal thing. u have to handle that immediacy, the fact of a body.” ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ it felt like a closed circle, this whole thing. the arc and then the full stop. body able to look back at you. 

This ballet touched me. it reminded me that there is a whole canon that ppl from the ~~East~~ still have to dismantle before we can get to other things. when the canon represents you one way, how can u put urself on stage and ignore the history of bodies that look like us that have come before you!? it is impossible. You are not starting on even ground. You need to landscape, level the ground u stand on. This is unnecessary labour. I hate it. I wana get to the good stuff, not deal with shite made up by old white men that have been dead for 100 years. This ballet gave me hope tho, bc it’s depiction of levelling that ground was pure power and beauty and grace, and i was so all the way into it.

 

The last act was a re-hash. A tribute to that famous scene; the Kingdom of Shades; where the warrior and the temple dancer are reunited in an opium haze in the smoky clouds on top of the Himalayas;;;; Nirvana. Next to the moon and the stars the smoke, the male temple dancer (the one that used to be wearing the suit, the one hat was pestered, the one that fought for space and agency to move as he pleases) and the other dancers move as one and as their own bodies. It was beautiful. I zoned out, leaned back, relaxed into the seat. This ballet made me feel bc it went through a whole arc just so the brown body on stage was at the centre, the hand writing its own narrative. The brown body on stage, by the end, was able to look the audience in the eye and call it itself, it’s own. Within the space of a performance, i got closure. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ This peeping thru the curtain, thru the stage ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ We are smoke and clouds, shadow and ghost. We are not truly visible to u, only to the star light and the moon. How can u represent truly something u r unable to see? ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Bayadère - the Ninth Life by Shobana Jeyasingh Dance was on @ Sadler's Wells but only for 2 nights last week. Sorry bout that n hope u lived vacariously thru my review :)

Kingdom of the Shades from the original La Bayadère

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