Hindus urge Hungarian State Opera to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging Hungarian State Opera (HSO) (Magyar Állami Operaház) to withdraw “La Bayadère” ballet; scheduled for June 14-27, 2025 in Budapest; which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that taxpayer-supported HSO 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. He also urged HSO to apologize for such an inappropriate selection. HSO, “the only classical ballet company in Hungary”, should have shown 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 an institution like State supported HSO, 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. HSO could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated.

Rajan Zed suggested HSO General Director Szilveszter Ókovács, Ballet Director Tamás Solymosi, and Artistic Director András Almási-Tóth to re-evaluate their systems and procedures and send their executives for cultural sensitivity training so that such an inappropriate stuff did not slip through in the future.

Moreover; Hungarian Ministry of Culture and Innovation led by János Csák and Hungarian National Cultural Council should seriously rethink their relationship with HSO if it continued with ballets like “La Bayadère”, which trivialized traditions of “others”; Zed added.

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 But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Rajan Zed points out.

This two hours 55 minutes (with two intermissions) long “La Bayadère” (choreographer Albert Mirzoyan and conductors Gábor Hontvári, Máté Hámori, Domonkos Héja) is a classical ballet in three acts. HSO, which claims to be “striving for world class quality in all our productions”, was founded in 1884.