If you’re not overly familiar with the Queensland Ballet’s 2018 season opener, La Bayadère, you could be forgiven. The fantasy story ballet originally choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1877 is a bit of a late bloomer in the repertoires of ballet companies around the world. In fact, the work was not performed in the West until 84 years after its original premiere, and Australian audiences saw the work for the first time only a few years ago.

La Bayadére. Photo © Justin Ridler

So when QB Artistic Director, Li Cunxin, asked choreographer and company Ballet Master Greg Horsman to create a new version, it was a little unexpected. “I said to Li: look, I’m intrigued. Let me think about it. I need to think about what I could do with the story,” recalls Horsman.

Traditionally, La Bayadère tells the tale of a bayadère (a temple dancer) and a noble warrior who have sworn their undying love for each other. But the warrior soon finds himself as the groom-to-be in an arranged marriage to another woman. This love triangle, played out in an exotic 19th-century British India,...