A new production of the famous ballet La Bayadѐre, presented by internationally acclaimed Indian choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, comes to The Lowry in September. Sadia Habib was honoured to interview the legendary Shobana Jeyasingh about the new staging entitled Bayadѐre – The Ninth Life.

Shobana Jeyasingh, photo JP Masclet

Do you happen to remember when you first encountered La Bayadѐre? How did you feel about it then? Have your ideas evolved over the years?

I probably saw La Bayadѐre about 10 or 15 years ago. My first response was a mixture of puzzlement and enjoyment. Consternation at the persistence of Orientalist portrayals of India and enjoyment of the dancing and choreography. Over the years, I have understood better where the Orientalist ideas came from and why.

What made you decide to update it in the form of La Bayadѐre – The Ninth Life?

It’s not an update of the original ballet. It’s a new contemporary dance work which comments on the original and I concentrate on the figure of the Bayadѐre and the allure she exerted in Europe.

 

Why is it called The Ninth Life?

Cats have nine lives – reputedly. The ninth is the last.

Will the production travel to India or any other places outside of the UK?

We are planning to tour the work in spring 2018 and I’d love it if that included some international dates.

Who do you imagine this new re-working of yours appeals to?

To anyone who likes dance – be it contemporary dance or ballet – ideas, India, entertainment, probably more.

Composer, producer and DJ Gabriel Prokofiev was responsible for the score. How did his ideas connect with your vision?

Gabriel and I had quite a few months of discussing the concept and how we would deliver it. It was a really creative process and it’s a great score.

What inspiration did theatre designer Tom Piper bring to the production?

Tom has brought a brilliant imagination to the design. His series of screens and frames have really contributed to the clarity of what I wanted to say.

What is it about La Bayadѐre that remains timeless? What messages can a modern audience take from the production?

La Bayadѐre is a historical ballet and has endured as a classic. However, it was made at the height of Empire building and its portrayal of India reflects this. La Bayadѐre – The Ninth Life updates those old narratives about ‘The East’ and ‘The West’.

La Bayadѐre – The Ninth Life runs at the Lowry from Thu 28 to Fri 29 September.
thelowry.com

Background photo by Chris Nash. Inset photo of Shobana Jeyasingh by JP Masclet.

Sadia Habib