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Norwegian National Ballet not to drop insensitive ballet

Norwegian National Ballet not to drop insensitive ballet
January 20
14:21 2022

Madhu Patel

CHICAGO: Norwegian National Opera & Ballet has refused to discard its upcoming production of “La Bayadère”; scheduled for March 23-April 07, 2022 in Oslo; which protesting Indian diaspora feel trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions and is culturally insensitive.

“We do not plan to cancel the production”, Norwegian National Opera & Ballet (Den Norske Opera &Ballet) Communications Director Kenneth Fredstie wrote to Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest. Fredstie, however, admitted in the email that “La Bayadère” features “fascination with, but also ignorance of, other cultures”.

Responding to Rajan Zed (President of Universal Society of Hinduism), Norwegian Ministry of Culture and Equality, which appoints the board of Norwegian National Opera & Ballet; has also declined to intervene, citing “artistic freedom”.

We plan to appeal to Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas GahrStøre as it is simply unfair, unethical and inappropriate, to spend taxpayer’s money on caricaturing “other” cultures; Rajan Zed points out.

We strongly felt that taxpayer funded Norwegian National Opera & Ballet; which was “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; he said.

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.

Norwegian National Opera & Ballet CEO GeirBergkastet, 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 inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

Like many others, Indians also consider ballet as one of the revered art forms, which offers richness and depth. But we are well into the 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, it is believed

Description of “La Bayadère” on Norwegian National Opera & Ballet website included: “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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