Marius Petipa’s original version of La Bayadère, which premiered in St. Petersburg in 1877, was meant to evoke the exotic Far East. Today’s productions have no shortage of tropes that Westerners might associate with a royal Indian court: elephants, rajahs, midriffs and opium dreams. The first time I saw La Bayadère, it was not the fantastical setting I found so mesmerizing, but the dancers underneath the layers of intrigue, silk and jewels.
It seems the most natural place for a dancer to perform is within a dream. Once the stage transports you deep into the world of the ballet, the audience experiences a surreal vision. Many ballets incorporate a dream scene, but Petipa’s Raymonda comes from the dreams of any girl who has fallen in love.The entire world slows as Raymonda floats through a heavy sleep, moving as if she imagines each step with closed eyes.