New Delhi, September 26, 2021: Hindus are disheartened as Estonia Culture Ministry has refused to interfere in the presentation of “La Bayadère” ballet by Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper Estonia) in Tallinn; scheduled for April 09-June 11, 2022; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.
Hindus now plan to appeal to President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia for their intervention and requesting them to persuade Estonian National Opera to drop “La Bayadère”.
Taaniel Raudsepp, Undersecretary for Arts in Estonia Ministry of Culture, in a delayed email response to distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest, wrote: …as the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Estonia we cannot, will not and do not interfere in any way in the artistic choices of any art institutions in Estonia.
Marion Leppik, Communication Manager of Estonian National Opera, responding via email to Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, wrote: The productions in the repertoire of the Estonian National Opera, including La Bayadère, are not intended to discriminate or disparage anyone…La Bayadère is a work belonging to the gold fund of the art of ballet, which is important for maintaining and developing the artistic level of each ballet troupe.
Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA), had said that taxpayer-funded Estonian National Opera (ENO) should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of “others”; and ridiculing entire communities.
Zed had indicated that this deeply problematic ballet was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes. He had also urged ENO to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.
ENO, the national opera company of Estonia, 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 had noted.
It was highly irresponsible for a national institution like ENO 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. ENO could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed had stated.
Rajan Zed had suggested ENO Director General Ott Maaten, Artistic Director Arvo Volmer, and Estonian National Ballet Artistic Director Linnar Looris, to re-evaluate ENO systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.
Moreover; Estonia Culture Ministry, led by Anneli Ott; and renowned supporting companies like Tallink, SEB, Kalev, Liviko, Sansha, etc.; should seriously rethink about their relationship with ENO if it continued with ballets like “La Bayadère”, which trivialized traditions of “others”; Zed added.
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; Rajan Zed had pointed out.
Toomas Edur is the choreographer-director of this two-hours long “La Bayadère”, whose tickets were priced up to €28.An announcement stated: “La Bayadère” is a story of eternal love, vengeance, and justice.