Hindus urge Estonian National Opera to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging prestigious Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper Estonia) in Tallinn to withdraw “La Bayadère” ballet; scheduled for April 09-June 11, 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 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, 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 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 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 stated.

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 But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Rajan Zed points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

Toomas Edur is the choreographer-director of this two-hours long “La Bayadère”, whose tickets are priced up to €28. “The ballet tells a wonderful story of eternal love, revenge and justice”, an announcement states.

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