La Bayadère: some of the post-Petipa changes

Out of all of Petipa’s ballets that have survived, the one that seems to have gone through the most changes since Petipa’s death is perhaps La Bayadère. In modern productions, the ballet is not completely in tact, primarily due to the loss of the fourth and final act, but also due to the changes of Petipa’s choreography and Minkus’s score. With the use of the order of music numbers from the 1900 revival, this post will look into what has changed in La Bayadère and what has remained relatively faithful to what Petipa staged in 1877 and 1900.

Act 1, scene 1

No. 1 Introduction – the ballet’s original introduction is not used in Natalia Makarova’s production, which uses a different introduction arranged by Sir John Lanchberry

No. 2 Scène première et entrée de Solor
No. 3 L’entrée du Grand Brahmane, les prêtres, et les fakirs

No. 4 Danse des prêtresses – this dance of the temple dances is usually performed by eight coryphées en pointe. However, in Petipa’s staging, this is a simple dance for eight coryphées in flat shoes; the only temple dancer to dance en pointe is Nikiya. This dance was completely re-choreographed by Vladimir Ponomarev for the 1941 revival. Ponomarev had the dancers dance en pointe and gave them steps of greater complexity and his choreography has since been retained in many modern productions.

No. 5 Scène dansée des fakirs
No. 6 Entrée de Nikiya
No. 7 Variation de Nikiya
No. 8 Scène dramatique du Grand Brahmane et Nikiya
No. 9 Scène mimique de Solor et Madhavaya

No. 10 Scène de Nikiya et le Veena – today, this number is a dance performed by Nikiya holding a water pitcher on her shoulder as she looks for Solor outside the temple, another change made in the 1941 revival. In Petipa’s staging, this is a romantic scene in which Solor watches his beloved Nikiya play her veena in a window of the temple.

No. 11 Pas d’action de Nikiya et Solor – Nikolai Legat’s expanded revival of this pas d’action is the standard version danced today, while Petipa’s original pas d’action is shorter with fewer athletic lifts.

No. 12 Scène mimique de Nikiya et Solor

No. 13 Scène – this scene was shortened in the 1941 revival and has remained so ever since, but in Petipa’s staging, this scene is longer. After Solor and Nikiya’s meeting, the temple dancers return to gather water. Nikiya joins them and returns to the temple. Afterwards, the warriors return and inform Solor that they have been successful in killing a tiger. Solor sends them on and following this is an extended scene of Solor and Nikiya saying goodbye to one another before the High Brahmin returns to swear vengeance over the sacred fire.

Act 1, scene 2

No. 14 Introduction et scène
No. 15 Danse d’jampe
No. 16 Entrée de Gamzatti
No. 17 Scène mimique du Grand Brahmane et le Raja
No. 18 Scène dramatique et final de Nikiya et Gamzatti


Act 2

No. 19 Grand cortège

Grand Divertissement – in Makarova’s production, all but one of the divertissements are omitted. The only divertissement that is used is the Valse des perroquets, which is used as a Valse éventails

No. 20 Danse des esclaves
No. 21 Valse éventails
No. 22 Valse des perroquets
No. 23 Danse pour quatre bayadères
No. 24 Danse manu
No. 25 Pas indien

No. 26 Coda générale – in Petipa’s staging, Gamzatti has no part in this number, primarily because, unlike in modern productions, she never dances in the second act

No. 27 Scène dansée de Nikiya

No. 27a Danse de Nikiya – in Petipa’s staging, Nikiya dances this dance with her veena, playing the melody she played on the night of her last meeting with Solor in the first act

No. 27b Danse panier – Makarova’s production uses new music arranged by Sir John Lanchberry for Nikiya’s dance with the flower basket. This is because Makarova mistakenly thought that the traditional music is a Soviet addition, when in fact, it is the original music by Minkus

No. 28 Scène et final – La morte de Nikiya


Act 3, scene 1

No. 29 Introduction et scène – in Petipa’s staging, this number has no dancing, as this is an action scene that showcases Solor’s grief

No. 30 Danse du charmeur de serpent

No. 31 Scène de Gamzatti et Solor – this number is cut from modern productions; it is a scene where Gamzatti visits Solor and tries in vain to win his affections. Her attempts are foiled when Solor sees a vision of the weeping shade of Nikiya in his opium-induced hallucinations

No. 32 Entrée de Nikiya et scène – another number that is cut from modern productions. After Gamzatti leaves, Solor continues to be haunted by the vision of Nikiya before falling asleep

Scene 2

No. 33 Grand pas classique des ombres

No. 33a Entrée des ombres – most modern productions use thirty-two shades, the same number Petipa used in his original 1877 production. However, in his final revival of 1900, he increased the number of shades from thirty-two to forty-eight. The number of shades used in Makarova’s production is twenty-four.

No. 33b Valse

No. 33c Entrée de Solor – in modern productions, upon entering, Solor dances, but in Petipa’s staging, there is no dancing in this number. This is another action scene that showcases Solor’s grief and agony as he explores the unfamiliar atmosphere of the Kingdom of the Shades before Nikiya appears to him

No. 33d Entrée de Nikiya
No. 33e Grand adage
No. 33f Variation I
No. 33g Variation II
No. 33h Variation III

No. 33i Variation de Nikiya – today, this number is a duet for Solor and Nikiya with a tulle scarf. However, in Petipa’s staging, Solor has no part in this number as it is solely a variation for Nikiya with a tulle scarf

No. 33j Grand coda – the 1941 revival was the first production to end La Bayadère on The Kingdom of the Shades scene. Minkus’s original coda was altered and the epilogue from the original apotheosis was tacked on to the music in order to bring the ballet to a close. This change has been retained in many modern productions, especially those that follow the Soviet tradition of ending La Bayadère on The Kingdom of the Shades scene

Scene 3

No. 34 Scène et final – this number is where Solor awakens from his dream and is informed by the warriors that his wedding to Gamzatti is already underway


Act 4

No. 35 Introduction et scène

No. 36 Danse des fleurs de lotus – this number is cut from most modern productions; it is a dance for twenty-four female students with lotus flower reeds

No. 37 Grand Pas d’action – the Grand Pas d’action is traditionally performed in the second act by Gamzatti, Solor, four temple dancers and two male dancers. However, in Petipa’s staging, the Grand Pas d’action is danced by four temple dancers, Gamzatti, Solor and Nikiya, who is only visible to Solor. She intercedes in the dancing, causing Solor to behave strangely, but no one can understand why

No. 37a Entrée
No. 37b Grand adage
No. 37c Variation de Solor (Variation pour M. Nikolai Legat)
No. 37d Variation de Gamzatti
Interpolation- Variation de Nikiya (Variation pour Mme. Matilda Kschessinskaya: music by Riccardo Drigo)
No. 37e Grand coda

No. 38 La destruction du temple
No. 39 Apothéose – la résurrection de Nikiya et Solor

One comment on “La Bayadère: some of the post-Petipa changes

  1. I wish there was a complete recording of the 1900 revival by Petipa. The Bolshoi did one recently. Sir Richard Bonynge’s recording is based on Makarova’s staging for ABT. Although a fine recording, a number of dances are missing from act 2. The shadow sequence is played too fast. Excellent article!!


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