Nikiya, a temple dancer, falls in love with the warrior Solor. The two swear their devotion, but the Rajah's daughter Gamzatti has her eye on Solor, and some evil plans for her rival. When Nikiya dies, bitten by Gamzatti's snake, the distraught Solor takes opium and dreams of Nikiya in the Himalayan Kingdom of the Shades. By the ballet's end, justice has been spectacularly done and the lovers are united in death.
Stanton Welch, resident choreographer of The Australian Ballet and artistic director of Houston Ballet, injects a hint of Bollywood sass into this dramatic tale, while celebrated designer Peter Farmer conjures up an opulent, painterly vision of 19th-century Orientalism, spiced with bare midriffs, harem pants and live snakes.