Boston Ballet urged to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Spanish Fork City Council, Hindu Mantra, Rajan Zed

New Delhi, May 09, 2023: Hindus are urging the Boston Ballet to withdraw The Kingdom of the Shades taken from “La Bayadère” ballet; scheduled in its 60th season in Spring 2024; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Boston Ballet, whose Mission includes “to inspire, empower, and deepen community through dance”, 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 Boston Ballet to apologize for such an inappropriate offering.

Boston Ballet 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; Rajan Zed noted.

It was highly irresponsible for an establishment like this 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. Boston Ballet could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed suggested Boston Ballet Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen, Executive Director Max Hodges, Trustees Chair Jack Meyer to re-evaluate its systems and procedures and send its staff for cultural sensitivity training so that such inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

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 But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Zed points out.

Boston Ballet, a non-profit organization with over 50-year history, claims to highlight “the power of human connection through art”. Reportedly composed of 69 dancers, its Vision includes “future of dance is the future of humanity”.

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