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The “Indians” in La Bayadère ~

This second confinement in France is starting to show its effectiveness and since about a week, the numbers here are stable and began to go down. We now have around 20 000 confirmed cases daily (we hit as many as 80 000 cases per day a few weeks ago!) The shops, restaurants and bars who are forced to close down are already pleading to reopen earlier. This week while having lunch at the canteen of the Opera Garnier, I talked to some colleagues who caught the Covid-19 and were sick for around 10 days. They told me how they lost their taste and smell. Compared to the beginning of this pandemic, people seem to see this virus very differently, much less scared than before. Anyway, Emmanuel Macron is making announcements this coming Tuesday. He will certainly talk about what the country will do after the 1st of December, which is the scheduled end of this second lockdown.

Meanwhile, the Paris Opera Ballet is preparing as if we will have live performances with an audience in December. We just started group rehearsals this week (i.e. the cover photo). Being so many in a same studio would be absolutely shocking for Hong Kong sanitary standards, especially during a lockdown. If nevertheless we can perform in December, we will stage La Bayadère, my favourite classical ballet! I will be doing the role of the “Indians“. I performed in this production during my first season with the company, 5 years ago. Here’s a photo of me then, in the costumes of the “Indians“.

However, there are some changes this year regarding this role…. Alexander Neef, our new general director, is very involved and concerned about the question of racism in the company. In the original production, the dancers interpreting the role of the “Indians” are painted in dark brown colour all over their body (and we’d get extra paid for this special make up called the “prime de maquillage“), whereas this year we will stay as we are. It is an interesting question to debate….. some think that in a way, painting one’s body in a certain skin colour could be humiliating for certain people, others think that because the history was written this way, we should keep it.

In any case, I hope that we can perform for real soon… I have always loved this ballet. Ludwig Minkus’ music is perfect for this ballet, the tragic story, Christian Lacroix’s sumptuous costumes, the impressive sets by Ezio Frigerio………. and of course Nureyev and Petipa’s choreography. Below is an extract of the dance of the Indians in the second act of the ballet, one of the most difficult character dances in the classical repertoire in terms of stamina, and this fast tempo! Especially challenging with a mask.

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