The rival ballerinas in "La Bayadere" are not diametric opposites. Nikiya, the Indian temple dancer, and Gamzatti, the Rajah's daughter, are not Odette and Odile -- the good and the evil. Nor are they Giselle and Bathilde -- innocence betrayed and rightful betrothed. Both characters are proud up to a point. Nikiya is willing to leave her temple rites for the handsome Solor whom Gamzatti desires desperately despite his duplicity. This absence of schematization, which extends to other roles, gave ample opportunities for diverse interpretations by varied casts as American Ballet Theatre settled into Natalia Makarova's epic production at Kennedy Center on the weekend.
Marianna Tcherkassky, whose deportment has become grand this year, gave a clearly interpreted and classically danced Nikiya on Saturday night. She was in full command of the diverse styles in Act I, even projecting sorrow during the allegro of her dance before Gamzatti and Solor.
Magali Messac's Nikiya, Sunday night, had the sensual melancholy of a Hindu dancer. With her supple, low-slung line only partly disguised by the upturned halo of her tutu, she tinted even the "white" choreography of the Shades act with exoticism. Cynthia Harvey, her Gamzatti, still has to master the many varieties of turns and, on occasion, sharpen her footwork. But she has the right, proud beauty.
Kevin McKenzie, Solor on Saturday and Sunday night, is a fine actor -- perhaps too detailed for the epic proportions of this ambiguous hero. His dancing on Sunday night was as lyrical and more expansive than on Saturday, though he doesn't generate the continuous energy of Alexander Godunov, who was even a courteous partner at the Saturday matinee.