Nikiya, a temple dancer, is in love with the warrior Solor. The High Brahmin pursues Nikiya, and when she rejects him, he plans to take revenge on Solor.
The High Brahmin tells the Princess Gamzatti, Solor's fiancée, about Solor's secret affair with Nikiya. But Gamzatti does not want revenge on Solor, and instead arranges for Nikiya to be killed. As he celebrates his wedding to Gamzatti, Solor is haunted by Nikiya's shade. The gods are angered, and destroy the temple, killing everyone at the wedding. Finally, Solor and Nikiya are united in death.
An iconic 19th-century Russian ballet, La Bayadère was originally performed at the Bolshoi Theatre in St Petersburg in 1877, and was regularly performed within the former Soviet Union throughout the 20th century. It remained unknown in the West until the Kirov Ballet toured with the Kingdom of the Shades scene in 1961. Natalia Makarova saw La Bayadère as a child in Leningrad and created this production in 1980. It was first performed by The Royal Ballet in 1989.
The Kingdom of the Shades scene in Act III is one of the ballet's highlights, in which a series of arabesques across the moonlit stage demonstrates the strength of the corps de ballet and the beauty of Marius Petipa's choreography. The ballet also contains roles of very different styles for two ballerinas in Nikiya and Gamzatti, a spectacular virtuoso solo for the Bronze Idol, and stunning pas de deux for Solor with both Nikiya and Gamzatti.
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