Hindus seek apology from Korean National Ballet hosting culturally insensitive “La Bayadère”

Hindus are critical of Korean National Ballet (KNB) in Seoul for hosting “La Bayadère” (April 27 to May two), which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions, and seek apology. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that a renowned ballet company like KNB should not be in the business of callously promoting appropriation of traditions, elements and concepts of “others”; and ridiculing entire communities. Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, indicated that this deeply problematic ballet was just a blatant belittling of a rich civilization and exhibited 19th-century orientalist attitudes. 

Ballet companies should show some maturity before selecting a ballet like “La Bayadère” (The Temple Dancer) displaying Western caricaturing of Eastern heritage and abetting ethnic stereotyping, Rajan Zed noted. It was highly irresponsible for a prestigious national organization 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. KNB, whose history goes back to 1962, could do better than this to serve its audiences, Zed stated. 

Rajan Zed urged KNB Artistic Director Kang Suejin, Managing Director Kwon Youngsup, Board Chairperson Heo Myeongsu to issue a formal apology for such inappropriate selection. He suggested the KNB board and management to re-evaluate its systems and procedures and send its executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future. Like many others, Hindus also consider ballet as one of the revered art forms which offers richness and depth. But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Zed points out. Tickets of “La Bayadere”, the 160 minutes ballet in three acts and two breaks, in Opera Theater at Seoul Arts Center, cost up to 80,000KRW. KNB, which claims to be “Korea’s first professional ballet company”, has performed around the world.