“La Bayadère” is a tour de force of ensemble grace and precision.
The Act 3 scene is called “The Kingdom of the Shades.” The Shades are mysterious, shadowy spirit figures that appear in the opium-fueled hallucination of a young Indian warrior named Solor following the death of his beloved Nikiya, a temple dancer. The scene opens as, one by one, the dancers of the corps de ballet enter single file and slowly make their way in unison down a ramp that crisscrosses nearly the full width of the stage, until all are at floor level. This hypnotic, dreamlike processional is basically the repetition of a single phrase — steps forward, a shift of weight, an arabesque in plié, with one leg extended behind, waist high — which the initial dancer performs 38 times until all the women have joined her onstage. The fundamental phrase is so pristine and simple, yet when performed well, it is a breathtaking, timeless tour de force of ensemble grace and precision.