La Bayadère was originally choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1877. The ballet was first performed by The Imperial Ballet at the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg. The original cast featured Imperial Ballet stars Ekaterina Vazem and Lev Ivanov. The ballet is often noted as being created for Vazem, who was one of the Imperial's most celebrated dancers.
Other influences to the ballet may have come in the form of touring companies of authentic Indian bayadères who visited Europe in the late 1830s. La Bayadère's story is set in exotic India and reflects many of the rich colors and cultural influences of India. The music, by Ludwig Minkus, was one of the many scores that the composer collaborated on with Petipa.
Throughout La Bayadère's long history, the ballet has been restaged and revived by many choreographers. Most notable, was the 1980 staging by Natalia Marakova for American Ballet Theatre. Marakova, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre at the time, danced the role of Nikiya in that famous premiere. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Marakova spoke of her love of the production saying, "the story is Shakespearean, about eternal things: love, jealousy, betrayal, retribution, the choice between love and duty. As humans, we are always interested in this."
In 1992, Rudolph Nureyev premiered his version of La Bayadère with Paris Opera Ballet. The star had a history of his own with the production, famously dancing the role of Solor in 1961 while on tour in Paris with The Kirov Ballet. These performances catapulted him into the international spotlight and influenced his decision to defect shortly after.
Boston Ballet's current production of La Bayadère was choreographed by Florence Clerc originally for the 2010-2011 season. Boston Ballet's La Bayadère features the lavish sets and new costumes that bring this masterpiece to life.