Hindus urge Lithuanian National Theatre to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging prestigious Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT) in Vilnius to withdraw “La Bayadère” ballet; scheduled for March 03-05, 2022; 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 Lithuania’s national theater like LNOBT 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 LNOBT to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.

LNOBT, said to be the biggest theater and one of the most important cultural centers in Lithuania founded in 1920, 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 a national institution like LNOBT 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. LNOBT could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed suggested LNOBT General Manager Jonas Sakalauskas, Opera Artistic Director Sesto Quatrini and Ballet Artistic Director Martynas Rimeikis to re-evaluate its 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; Lithuania Culture Ministry, led by Simonas Kairys, should seriously rethink about their relationship with LNOBT 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 But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Rajan Zed points out.

Three-hours long “La Bayadère” is scheduled to be held on LNOBT Main Stage in three acts. Conductor is Martynas Staškus and tickets cost up to €60 each. LNOBT moved into the current building in 1974.

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