In good orientalist fashion, the work lumps together stories of Turks, Persians, and American Indians under the heading of “the gallant Indies.” This dance is from the fourth and final part, “Les Sauvages,” in which the chief’s daughter, Zima, chooses an Indian called Adario for her lover, rejecting the advances of both a Frenchman and a Spaniard. (You can spot the two European rivals in the background toward the end of the dance.)
This performance is by Les Arts Florissants, directed by William Christie. Patricia Petibon sings the part of Zima.
Rameau’s music is marvelous, but the stage business is fantastically silly. Not all of the nonsense can be blamed on faithfulness to the baroque original, I’m afraid. Consider the costuming, which draws on 20th-century (not 18th-century) images and stereotypes — and those pseudo-Egyptian hand movements as the Indiens mince across the stage.
Then there are all those corncob pipes that suddenly appear out of nowhere. In French eyes, I suppose those Victorian novelty items might look like something an Indian would smoke. And it gives the whole chorus a chance to show off by singing with pipes clenched between their teeth. Still, I think the effect is even more absurd than the director probably intended. Sort of like decking out Madama Butterfly in Hello Kitty gear.