Hindus urge UNC School of the Arts to drop culturally insensitive ballet “La Bayadère”

Hindus are urging University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem to withdraw “La Bayadère” from its upcoming Spring Dance concert (April 30 to May 08), which they feel seriously trivializes Eastern religious and other traditions. Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that taxpayer-funded public art school like UNCSA 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 UNCSA to apologize for such an inappropriate selection. UNCSA, which claims to be “a top-ranked creative and performing arts conservatory”, 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 a public institution 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. UNCSA, founded in 1963, could do better than this to serve its diverse stakeholders; Zed stated. 

Rajan Zed suggested UNCSA Chancellor Brian Cole and Trustees Chair Ralph Hanes Womble 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 But we are well into 21st century now, and outdated “La Bayadère”, which was first presented in St. Petersburg (Russia) in 1877, is long overdue for permanent retirement from the world stage; Zed points out. The wide-ranging Spring Dance concert of UNCSA is slated to be livestreamed from its Agnes de Mille Theatre during a six-show run. UNCSA, whose tagline is “powering creativity”, describes itself “professional school for the performing, visual, and moving image arts”.