Russia’s Storied Ballet Is Among the Casualties of War


Mr. Hallberg said Ms. Smirnova was “very brave” to leave the Bolshoi, given she wasn’t just leaving a company, but an institution that “was in her DNA.”

Ms. Smirnova is not the only high-profile artist to leave Russia. On the day war began, Alexei Ratmansky, ballet’s pre-eminent choreographer and a former artistic director of the Bolshoi, was in Moscow rehearsing a new work. He immediately got a flight back home to New York, where he is artist in residence at American Ballet Theater, saying he was unlikely to return to Russia “if Putin is still president.”

Laurent Hilaire, the French director of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Ballet in Moscow resigned days after the war began. And a host of dancers, mostly foreign, have left too, including Xander Parish, who is British; Jacopo Tissi, who is Italian; and David Motta Soares and Victor Caixeta, who are Brazilian. Mr. Caixeta, a rising soloist, is now in Amsterdam partnering Ms. Smirnova. The pair are scheduled to make their debut in “Raymonda,” a classic of Russian ballet, on Saturday.

Since Russia’s invasion began, many European governments have ordered their cultural institutions, including dance companies, not to work with Russian state bodies like the Mariinsky or the Bolshoi. The Dutch National Ballet has canceled a visit by the Mariinsky, pulled out of a ballet festival in St. Petersburg and stopped collaborating with the Moscow International Ballet Competition, scheduled to take place at the Bolshoi in June.

Works by several prominent Western choreographers may disappear from Russian stages, as those who control the rights to their ballets suspend collaboration with Russian companies. Nicole Cornell, the director of the George Balanchine Trust, which holds the rights to the choreographer’s work, said in an email that it had “paused all future licensing conversations” with Russian companies. And Jean-Christophe Maillot, a French choreographer and director of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, said in an email that he had asked the Bolshoi to suspend performances of his “The Taming of the Shrew,” but that its general director, Vladimir Urin, had refused. “These conditions obviously make it difficult to resume a collaboration with the Bolshoi,” Mr. Maillot said.


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