The Russian principal dancer Olga Smirnova, an outspoken critic of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has decided to leave the Bolshoi Ballet Company where she is one of its most popular and admired dancers. She has joined Dutch National Ballet.
According to a spokesperson, Smirnova chose the Netherlands because a collaboration with Dutch National Ballet “has long been on her wish list”.
Ted Brandsen, director of Dutch National Ballet, called Smirnova “an exceptional dancer”, adding:
The background of Olga Smirnova’s arrival is of course sad. As a company, on the other hand, we are very pleased that such an inspiring dancer is joining us.
Smirnova, whose grandfather was from Ukraine, said in a Telegram post, “I am against this war with all my heart”:
I never thought that I would be ashamed of Russia. I have always been proud of the talented Russian people and our cultural and sporting achievements. But now a line has been drawn that separates the before and after. It hurts when people die and others lose their roofs over their heads or are forced to abandon their homes. And who would have thought a week ago that all this would happen to us, because even though we are not in the midst of the fighting, we cannot remain indifferent to a global catastrophe.
Olga Smirnova dances her first role with the company in a performance of Raymonda on 3 April. Presumably she will now dance as planned at La Scala in Milan for the Carla Fracci Gala on 9 April.
Victor Caixeta, 22, the Brazilian soloist from the Mariinsky Theatre who left the country last week, will also join Dutch National Ballet:
Due to current circumstances, I made the difficult decision to leave Russia, the place I’ve called home for nearly five years, and the theatre that has given me a great start in my professional career.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.