Hindus urge Sofia Opera & Ballet to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging Sofia Opera and Ballet in Bulgaria to discard its upcoming production of “La Bayadère”; scheduled for April eight and nine; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that Sofia Opera and Ballet, the “national cultural institution” of Bulgaria, 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 Sofia Opera and Ballet to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.

Sofia Opera and Ballet 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 Sofia Opera and Ballet 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. Sofia Opera and Ballet could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed also urged Bulgarian Minister of Culture Atanas Atanasov to seriously look into this issue of cultural stereotyping by Sofia Opera and Ballet.

Zed suggested Sofia Opera and Ballet Manager Plamen Kartaloff, Artistic Matters Deputy Director Vera Petrova, Ballet Artistic Director Aleksandar Aleksandrov to re-evaluate its systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

Moreover; Sofia Opera and Ballet partners/sponsors like Sofia Municipality, Eurohold, Euroins, Dundee Precious Metals, Goto Jewellery and Diamonds, etc., should rethink their relationship with it if it continued with ballets like “La Bayadère”, which trivialized traditions of “others”; Rajan 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 the 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.

This “La Bayadere”, directed by Pavel Stalinski, is stated to be two hours 45 minutes long with two intermissions. Sofia Opera and Ballet reportedly covers opera, ballet, musicals and children’s performances.

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