L'Orient: Search for the Real Lakmé 

A panel of judges gazes down on the beautiful bodies of five women as they strive to perform their increasingly demanding audition pieces. The bodies are brown, or black. Or non-binary. Or all the above, or none...the erotic in an explosive mixture with the exotic. So which one will be chosen for the role…?


Or...are the flesh-exposing gyrations of these aspiring performers a relic from a bygone age: the sexualized gaze, the unchallenged province of high art for so many centuries, now strictly tabù…?


These are the questions explored in L’Orient, a thrilling new dance-opera from choreographer Preeti Vasudevan, composer Kamala Sankaram, and writer/librettist Catherine FillouxTaking as its starting point Lakmé, the 1893 opera by Léo Delibes, the new work is set in the cut-throat world of reality television. A public search is on for “the real Lakmé”—a performer with the star quality to bring the hide-bound opera into the twenty-first century. A grueling series of auditions has whittled the short-list down to five...

L'Orient Works & Process at the Guggenheim Discovery Capsule. Photo credits: Dancing Camera (2021).

L'Orient Works & Process at the Guggenheim Bubble Residency at Mount Tremper Arts, NY. Photo credits: Thresh Archive (2021).

Behind the Scenes

Come behind the scenes with Thresh's Artistic Director, Preeti Vasudevan! Our January 2021 Works & Process bubble residency at Mount Tremper Arts, NY provided an opportunity to develop select vignettes of L’Orient that challenge the cultural displacement of exoticized subjects and characters in Western opera.


Commissioned by Works & Process at the Guggenheim this new video performance was co-produced by Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, facilitated by the Jerome Robbins Dance Division.


The Works & Process at the Guggenheim bubble residency was made possible through the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Artistic Director/Choreographer: Preeti Vasudevan

Composer: Kamala Sankaram

Writer/Librettist: Catherine Filloux 

Production Designer: Robert Wierzel

Rehearsal Director: Ramona Kelley

Duration: 60 minutes (no intermission)

Proposed premiere: Spring 2023

Early Development

L'Orient was initally presented in 2019 at Works & Process at the Guggenheim as part of the Joyce Theater Foundation / Dance Lab NY Creation Grant for Women Choreographers. Supported by the 2019 Virginia Toulmin Fellowship for Women Leaders in Dance through The Center for Ballet and the Arts, NYU.


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