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RhetOracle Dance – “La Bayadere” in review

September 19, 2011

RhetOracle Dance’s ambitious new piece, “La Bayadere,” takes the concept of a full length dance show to a new level. The piece is a reimagination of Marius Petipa’s ballet, original set in India, which tells the tale of a complex love “triangle.” The original story is that of lovers Solor and Nikiya, whose relationship is sabotaged by the high priest as he has chosen Solor to betroth his daughter, Gamzatti, to instead. In the end Nikiya is killed, Solor in his grief is to be married to Gamzatti, and the entire ballet ends in tragedy and death. Nate Hodge’s tackled the storyline and in his own words “strip[ped] away the pretty outer layers of the classic Orient ballet and focus[ed] on its beautifully tragic storyline.”

© vince trupsin

The audience instead was transported to a bar in the Deep South, complete with a classic and contemporary blues-based sound track and modernized choreography including elements of jazz, hip hop and musical theater. As someone not familiar with the storyline walking in, I found the plot and characters easy to follow via the choreography and portrayal by the dancers. I personally am a fan of storytelling within dance productions because I believe it increases the accessibility of dance to those not trained in this art form. It harkens back to my days in folk dance when we did full length folk tales set in dance. It is rare these days to find a production entirely composed in dance with a cohesive storyline aside from the story ballets. Although this is a take on one of those ballets, I still give props to the company for taking the risk to produce a full length story show. From that perspective, I felt that RhetOracle’s take on “La Bayadere” was masterfully created and executed. It very much stayed true to the company’s mission.

As to choreography itself, I enjoyed seeing Nate’s style in a larger work, having only experienced his previous choreography in much smaller bites. The opening number immediately engages the audience and draws them into the setting and characters. At times the repertoire felt repetitive, given the large number of scenes, and I would have liked to have seen a little more variety. However, on the whole, I still found entertaining and I certainly was not bored at any point in the show. The dancers gave an outstanding performance, both technically and theatrically. I particularly liked Byrana Verner in her role as Nikki.

If you are looking for something outside of the usual contemporary dance scene in LA, I highly recommend getting out to see “La Bayadere.” It is a story well told and performed.

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