Ludwig Minkus


A scene from La Bayadère


Recommended age 6+


Libretto: Marius Petipa, Sergey Khudekov
Choreography: Marius Petipa
Staging: Pavel Stalinsky
Musical Director: Honoured Art Worker of the Republic of Belarus Nikolai Koliadko
Designer: People’s Artist of Russia, laureate of the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus Vyacheslav Okunev
Running time: 35 minutes
Premiere: 20 April 2005


‘Visible music’, ‘poetic allegory’, ‘the image of beauty and zest for life’, ‘sublime hymn to feelings’, ‘the symphony of pas, a poem of beauty, a poem of classical dance, a unique ballet panorama’ – that’s all about the scene “Shades” from La Bayadère . Created in 1877, the ballet is now regarded to be a classic and has been staged for all principal companies of the world. Its story deals with the drama of a noble Indian warrior, Solor, who falls in love with a temple dancer, Nikiya. The marriage to her is impossible, but Solor swears eternal love to Nikiya. The events go tragically: Solor agrees to marry the Rajah’s daughter, Gamzatti. She contrives Nikiya’s death from a snake bite during her wedding when she learns about her fiancé and the bayadère’s love. An inconsolable Solor meet his beloved again – in the visions of magic shades.

One of the reasons of such vitality of the piece created over a hundred years ago is this famous scene from act 3, “Shades”, which is considered to be among the most remarkable achievements and peaks of Petipa’s creative work, and also an excellent masterpiece of choreography in general. Vadim Gayevsky, a reputable ballet historian and critic, notes: ‘Ballet blanc in “Shades” from La Bayadère by Petipa is a mature completed form. Corps de ballet comes to the fore; the story is cut to the minimum, to a lyrical motif which nevertheless undergoes its symphonic development and a tremendous advance. “Shades” symbolizes ballet blanc’s full realization of its capabilities and charms, and the triumph of a fulfilled idea. It’s little wonder that this dance work contains so many static poses. The beautiful moment stops: it seems that art has reached the promised land, its apogee.’

Creating “Shades”, the choreographer drew on the achievements of romantic ballet of the 19th century which brought onstage the pure dance, an absolute expression of music where movements neither carry a special message nor foster action; they are visible expression of music, the choreographer’s inspiration, they disclose emotionally full and sublime generalized choreographic show rather than the peripeteias of the story. In the opinion of the researcher of the history of Russian ballet Vera Krasovskaya, ‘This act avoided any marks of national colour. Details disappeared, giving way to lyrical generalizations. The action took on a different aspect. It stopped, or ceased, to be precise. There were not special developments, but there were feelings. Here the dance assimilates to music, depicting the background, emotions and the story of the piece.’

Petipa’s “Shades” became not only a hymn to the master’s talent and lyrical manifestation of his talent, but also a conductor of ballet blanc from the epoch of romanticism to the 20th century. Without “Shades” Lev Ivanov would not have created “swan scenes” in Swan Lake; there would probably not have been the revelation of the genius of George Balanchine who chose pure dance and ballet blanc as leitmotifs of his creative work and who brought storyless dance to a new level. “Shades” is at the same time an independent choreographic masterpiece and a step to the development of pure dance.