Ballet “La Bayadère” will not be held at Brook Theatre in Chatham (England) as earlier scheduled (for March 25-27, 2022), after Hindus protested saying it “seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions”.
A spokesperson of Medway Council (which runs Brook Theatre), in an email to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest, wrote: “After looking into the matter the local community organisation, which was hiring the theatre for the performance, has decided that they will not be continuing with their production of La Bayadère. The ethos of Medway Council’s theatres is to promote inclusion and diversity at all times. In future we will endeavour to ensure that all performances taking place in our theatres reflect these values, including any third-party bookings.” In an earlier email, the Council spokesperson had said: “… This performance is being organised by a local community organisation and we are currently discussing the matter with them.”
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, thanked Medway Council, Brook Theatre and Walderslade based Bluebell School of Dance & Performing Arts (which was reportedly performing “La Bayadère”)
for understanding the concerns of Hindu community, which felt that such a display was insensitive.
Rajan Zed suggested Medway Mayor Jan Aldous and Council to re-evaluate Brook Theatre systems and procedures and send its staff for cultural and religious sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future and they had better understanding of the feelings of the stakeholders and communities.
Zed had said that taxpayer-funded and Council run institution like Brook Theatre should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of “others”; and ridiculing entire communities.
Rajan Zed had indicated that this deeply problematic ballet was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes.
Brook Theatre (and through it the Medway Council), which boasts of “stunning Victorian architecture”, should have shown some maturity before blessing a ballet like “La Bayadère” (The Temple Dancer) displaying Western caricaturing of Eastern heritage and abetting ethnic stereotyping; Zed had noted.
It was highly irresponsible for an establishment like Brook Theatre to allow 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. Brook Theatre could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Rajan Zed had stated.
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 permanent retirement from the world stage; Zed had pointed out.
Tickets to this “story of love, betrayal and forgiveness” were priced up to £13 each.
Bluebell School of Dance & Performing Arts, founded in1977 by Suzanne Burnham-Jones, which specializes in Russian Ballet; offers classes in various kinds of dances—ballet, modern, tap, contemporary, street; and musical theatre. It now teaches approximately 180 pupils in four centers and its Mission includes: Excellence-Opportunity-Inclusion-Community.