En Pointe and On Budget

Deep-pocketed balletomanes (ballet fans) could spend thousands of dollars flying to Russia to catch the legendary Bolshoi Ballet in action.

Or, for a mere fraction of that, they could experience the splash and spectacle of one of the world’s most celebrated dance companies without leaving Whitehorse.

On Saturday, January 10, the Yukon Arts Centre (YAC) will present a live-to-video performance of La Bayadère, a tale of star-crossed love that has been part of the classical ballet canon for over 135 years.

The YAC had originally planned to present the Royal Ballet Company’s spanking-new production of Alice In Wonderland, but its distribution company was unable to get  exclusive rights to the British offering.

The scheduling switch doesn’t really bother YAC artistic director, Eric Epstein.

“There may not be the same familiarity with the story, but I think the fact that it’s the Bolshoi will attract a number of people,” he says.

“Ballet can be appreciated by a wide range of ages, because of the beauty of the movement, and the colour, the costumes and lighting. It can be quite spellbinding.”

The ballet tells the story of Nikiya, a bayadère (Indian temple dancer) and Solor, the warrior she loves.

Solor has sworn to be faithful to Nikiya forever, but cannot refuse when a powerful Rajah insists that he marry his daughter, Gamzatti. To complicate matters further, the High Brahmin who is in love with Nikiya plots to have Solor killed.

Things go desperately awry when Nikiya shows up to fulfil her commitment to dance at the betrothal ceremony of Gamzatti and Solor.

Spoiler alert: a poisonous snake is lurking in a basket of flowers.

La Bayadère was originally developed as a four-act work by French choreographer Marius Petipa, set to the music of Ludwig Minkus.

Since its debut at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, in February, 1877, it has been presented in one form or another by such companies as the Bolshoi, the Kirov Ballet, and the American Ballet Theatre.

Yuri Grigorovich’s “new scenic version” for the Bolshoi opened in January 2013. The video stars Svetlana Zakharova as Nikiya, Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti, and Vladislav Lantratov as Solor. Excerpts can be found on YouTube.

For Epstein, high-definition screenings offer Yukon audiences an opportunity to “go out into the big world” and experience performance events the YAC could not possibly stage otherwise.

“It’s definitely a different experience than being in a live room with the performers, but those people are in a room with live people, and you’re in a room with an audience watching those people perform,” he says.

“I think it gives you a lot of the same excitement and visceral involvement where you do start to feel emotionally involved in it.”

Epstein says “skillful, multi-camera setups” bring the audience closer to the action than a live performance would.

“You get to see some of the subtleties of the performance, and it gives you a sense of the intimacy of it, as well as the spectacle of it. They really do pull you into the show.”

The YAC screening of La Bayadère takes place Saturday, January 10 at 1:00 p.m. Running time, not including intermissions, is three hours and 15 minutes.

Ticket information and related links may be found at www.yukonartscentre.com

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