Hindus urge West Australian Ballet to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging West Australian Ballet (WAB) to withdraw “La Bayadère” ballet; scheduled for April 12-20, 2024 in His Majesty’s Theatre (HMT) in Perth; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that taxpayer-funded WAB and HMT 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. He also urged WAB to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.

WAB, oldest ballet company in Australia, should have shown 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 an institution like State funded WAB, 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. WAB could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed suggested WAB Board Chair Ingrid Puzey, Artistic Director David McAllister, Executive Director Lauren Major; and HMT 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; Western Australian (WA) Culture Ministry lead by David Templeman and renowned WAB partners like Singapore Airlines, City of Perth, The West Australian, Woodside Energy, etc.; should seriously rethink about their relationship with WAB if it continued with ballets like “La Bayadère”, which trivialized traditions of “others”; Zed added.

Since WAB receives funds from Australian Government, WA Government and City of Bayswater; WA Governor General Chris Dawson (also a WAB Patron), WA Premier Roger Cook, and Bayswater Mayor Filomena Piffaretti should also seriously look into this issue; Rajan Zed stressed.

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 points out.

This two-hours long “La Bayadère” (Choreographer Greg Horsman; Staging Directors Craig Lord-Sole, Reika Sato) is a co-production between WAB, Queensland Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet; whose tickets are priced up to $149. WAB was established in 1952.

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