Polina Semionova as Nikiya in La Bayadere basket of flowers scene. Music by Ludwig Minkus, choreography by Marius Petipa, revised by Vladimir Ponomaryov and Vakhtang Chabukiani. Shot on 13.02.1015 in the Mikhailovsky Theatre, St Petersburg, Russia.
Polina Semionova is Principal with the American Ballet Theatre. She was born in Moscow in 1984, is a classical ballet dancer and Principal with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Polina studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow, Russia. She graduated in 2002, joined the Ballet Staatsoper Berlin as a principal upon the invitation of Vladimir Malakhov, becoming the youngest principal in the company’s history at the age of 18. She toured Japan as Malakhov’s partner, the reason he had invited her to be a principal in the company.
La Bayadère (en. The Temple Dancer, Ru. Баядерка) is a ballet, originally staged in four acts and seven tableaux by French choreographer Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus. La Bayadère was first performed by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1877. Today, La Bayadère is presented primarily in two different versions—those productions derived from Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomaryov’s 1941 revival for the Kirov Ballet, and those productions derived from Natalia Makarova’s 1980 version for American Ballet Theatre, which is itself derived from Chabukiani and Ponomaryov’s version.
In 1940 the Kirov Ballet once again made plans to revive La Bayadère, this time in a staging by the Balletmaster Vladimir Ponomarev and the Premier danseur Vakhtang Chabukiani. This version would be the definitive staging of La Bayadère from which nearly every subsequent production would be based. The Ponomarev/Chabukiani revival of La Bayadère premiered in 1941 to a resounding success, with Natalia Dudinskaya as Nikiya and Vakhtang Chabukiani as Solor.
The choreography for the character of Nikiya went through a renaissance in when performed by the virtuoso ballerina Dudinskaya, whose revisions to the choreography remain the standard. Although her interpretation of the tragic Nikiya was looked on as unsuitable for the stellar ballerina, she nevertheless excelled in The Kingdom of the Shades, where Petipa’s strict academic patterns prevailed. In the Variation de Nikiya (a.k.a. the Scarf Duet) she studded the choreography with multiple tours en arabesque, and included, for the first time, airy splits in her Grand jetés during the Entrée de Nikiya, as well as adding fast piqué turns in the Grand coda. The choreography for Solor went through a renaissance as well with the great Premier danseur Chabukiani in the role. Although the dances for the role of Solor had become far more prominent since La Bayadère had been performed in Imperial Russia, Chabukiani’s revisions to the choreography would become the standard for all proceeding male dancers.
Photo by Jack Devant ballet photography © with kind permission of the Mikhailovsky Theatre, special thanks to Nacho Duato and Valeria Derkach.