‘Culturally Insensitive’ Ballet Cancelled after Protests

A ballet production was cancelled following protests. It is claimed that it “seriously trivialises Eastern religious and other traditions”.

'Culturally Insensitive' Ballet Cancelled After Hindu Protests

"a blatant belittling of a rich civilisation"

A ballet which has been labelled as ‘culturally insensitive’ has been cancelled in the UK after protests from the Hindu community.

La Bayadère was due to be showcased at the Brook Theatre in Chatham, Kent between March 25 and March 27, 2022.

The ballet is set in Royal India of the past and portrays a temple dancer, Nikiya, who is loved by a noble warrior called Solor.

The High Brahmin is also in love with Nikiya but she does not return this love the way that she does with Solor as seen in the three-part act.

Protestors said La Bayadère, first performed in St Petersburg, Russia in 1877, “seriously trivialises Eastern religious and other traditions”.

Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, spearheaded the effort which led to the theatre eventually dropping the ballet.

In a lengthy statement, he urged Medway Mayor Jan Aldous and Medway Council to re-evaluate Brook Theatre’s systems and procedures.

Zed also said that the staff responsible should be sent for cultural and religious sensitivity training so such issues did not arise in the future.

The President added: “Taxpayer-funded and council-run institutions like Brook Theatre should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of ‘other’ and ridiculing entire communities.

“This deeply problematic ballet is just a blatant belittling of a rich civilisation and exhibits 19th-century orientalist attitudes.

Rajan Zed continued: “It was highly irresponsible for an establishment like Brook Theatre to allow such a ballet which had been blamed for patronising flawed mishmash of orientalist stereotypes, dehumanising cultural portrayal and misrepresentation, offensive and degrading elements, needless appropriation of cultural motifs, essentialism, shallow exoticism, caricaturing, etc.

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“But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated La Bayadère, which was first presented in St Petersburg, Russia, in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage.”

Paul Cowell, Medway Council’s Head of Culture and Libraries, said:

“After looking into the matter the local community organisation, which was hiring the theatre for the performance, has decided that they will not be continuing with their production of La Bayadère.

“The ethos of Medway Council’s theatres is to promote inclusion and diversity at all times.”

“In future, we will endeavour to ensure that all performances taking place in our theatres reflect these values, including any third-party bookings.”

The ballet was set to be performed by the Bluebell School of Dance and Performing Arts with tickets costing up to £13.

Naina is a journalist interested in Scottish Asian news. She enjoys reading, karate and independent cinema. Her motto is "Live like others don't so you can live like others won't."