Indiana University Livestreams Star on the Rise: La Bayadère … Reimagined!

March 29, 2024

The world premiere of Phil Chan and Doug Fullington’s Star on the Rise: La Bayadère … Reimagined! takes place at Indiana University’s Musical Arts Center in Bloomington on March 29 (7:30 pm ET) and March 30 (2 pm and 7:30pm ET). The performances will also stream live as part of IU Music Live! and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will host a screening March 29 at Bruno Walter Auditorium. Fullington, a dance historian and musicologist offered insight into the creation of Star on the Rise: La Bayadère … Reimagined! in an interview at Indiana University.

Chan, co-founder of Final Bow for Yellowface, spoke to Dance Magazine writer Stav Ziv last fall about the creation process of Star on the Rise: La Bayadère … Reimagined! in “Indiana University Removes Offensive Caricatures in New Productions of The Nutcracker and La Bayadère:” “My favorite creative prompt is asking myself the question: ‘What else could it be?’ ” says Chan. “Like when you’re a little kid and you have a pen, but it’s not just a pen. It could be a rocket ship or a lightsaber or magic wand. How can we apply that kind of thinking to a work like Bayadère?”

Instead of reproducing a French-born, St. Petersburg-based ballet master’s imagined India, Chan and Fullington set their love triangle during the golden age of Hollywood. Though they’ve re-created much of Marius Petipa’s choreography based on notations from 1900, the tale is reminiscent of quintessential American musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, Chan says, “if Nikiya was like Debbie Reynolds and Solor was Gene Kelly, and Lina Lamont, the sort-of princess, was this Gamzatti character.” In this telling, Ludwig Minkus’ score is reorchestrated by Larry Moore in the style of a Gershwin musical, the Golden Idol is a dancing Oscar statue, and the iconic Kingdom of the Shades becomes an Art Deco fantasy à la Busby Berkeley.

“With the flip in the storyline, the beauty of the dance remains and the questionable plot dissolves,” says IU senior Ruth Connelly. Fellow senior Aram Hengen adds that the school’s learning environment is the perfect place for this change to begin:­ “It’s a lab, basically.” Both are excited to see ripple effects­ beyond their campus.

Chan, IU ballet department chair Sarah Wroth, and their colleagues are too. “All I’m saying is, ‘Let me show you just one other way to do it,’ ” Chan says. “Everybody benefits if we get more Bayadères. That’s the beauty of this form. It can take reimaginings.” The stories we tell have to reflect us, even when it comes to the classics, Chan says, and the stakes are high: “We’ve got to figure out a new way to do that for this new, more diverse, younger generation—or else we are doomed.”

A dancer in a yellow skirt and hat jumps over a large musical note and the words Star on the Rise in front of a purple background with stars