Hindus urge Norwegian National Ballet to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging Norwegian National Opera & Ballet to discard its upcoming production of “La Bayadère”; scheduled for March 23-April 07, 2022 in Oslo; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that taxpayer funded Norwegian National Opera & Ballet (Den Norske Opera & Ballett); which is “wholly-owned by the Norwegian state”; 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 Norwegian National Opera & Ballet to apologize for such an inappropriate selection.

Norwegian National Ballet, which claims to be “the only classical ballet company in Norway”, 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 Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, whose “strategy” stated—”We will create and present operas and ballets which make an impact”; 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. Norwegian National Opera & Ballet could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed also urged Norwegian Minister of Culture and Equality Anette Trettebergstuen; who is “responsible for cultural policy, equality- and discrimination policy”; to seriously look into this issue of cultural stereotyping by Norwegian National Opera & Ballet, whose board is appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Culture.

Zed suggested Norwegian National Opera & Ballet CEO Geir Bergkastet, Board Chairperson Anne Carine Tanum, Ballet Artistic Director Ingrid Lorentzen to re-evaluate its systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

Moreover; Norwegian National Opera & Ballet collaborators like Norsk Tipping, FINN, OBOS, Red Bull should rethink about 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 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.

Tickets for this two hour 50 minutes long “La Bayadère” are priced up to 900 kroner. Its description on Norwegian National Opera & Ballet website includes: “ballet houses around the world are currently engaging in dialogue about whether this classic still deserves a rightful place in the repertoire”.

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