By Sarah L. Kaufman
Forty years ago almost to the day, American Ballet Theatre premiered a glittering extravaganza of Indian temple dancers, bejeweled Brahmins, an opium-aided trip to the afterlife and an earthquake watched over by a Buddha as big as a house.
By the time the curtain fell, the ballet landscape had changed.
Natalia Makarova created, directed and starred in that landmark production of “La Bayadere.” It became an ABT staple and eventually entered the repertoires of troupes around the world. As she was first bringing it to the stage, Makarova taught the ABT dancers every step and gesture of the three-hour production, with corps de ballet rookies and the company’s greats alike watching in fear and awe as the world-famous Russian ballerina commanded them to dance bigger, move freer and even breathe with more conviction.
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