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'We cannot remain indifferent': Russian star ballerina Olga Smirnova quits Bolshoi Ballet

Published 17th March 2022
Bolshoi Theatre ballet dancer Olga Smirnova during a gala concert of the Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia and the Sveshnikov State Academic Russian Choir at the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.
Credit: Vladimir Vyatkin/Sputnik/AP
'We cannot remain indifferent': Russian star ballerina Olga Smirnova quits Bolshoi Ballet
Written by Oscar Holland, CNN
One of the stars of Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, Olga Smirnova, has quit the company over Russia's invasion of Ukraine and will instead dance for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam.
The move comes after the St. Petersburg-born ballerina denounced the conflict, saying that "a line has been drawn."
In a statement published Wednesday, the Dutch National Ballet said Smirnova had been "welcomed with open arms." She is expected to make her debut there with its staging of "Raymonda," which premieres in early April.
Smirnova joined the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, before taking lead roles in performances of "Swan Lake" and "Giselle," among others. She has since toured internationally with the troupe and has appeared as a guest performer for the American Ballet Theatre and the Vienna State Ballet.
Smirnova, whose grandfather is Ukrainian, wrote on Telegram that she is "against war with all the fibers of my soul."
"I never thought I would be ashamed of Russia," she wrote in the statement, which was later republished by the Dutch National Ballet. "I have always been proud of talented Russian people, of our cultural and athletic achievements. But now I feel that a line has been drawn that separates the before and the after.
"It hurts that people are dying, that people are losing the roofs over their heads or are forced to abandon their homes. And who would have thought a few weeks ago that all of this would happen? We may not be at the epicenter of the military conflict, but we cannot remain indifferent to this global catastrophe."
Olga Smirnova performing in the  "Casse-Noisette et Compagnie" (Nutcracker and Company), a creation by French dancer and choreographer, Jean-Christophe Maillot, in Monaco in 2015.
Olga Smirnova performing in the "Casse-Noisette et Compagnie" (Nutcracker and Company), a creation by French dancer and choreographer, Jean-Christophe Maillot, in Monaco in 2015. Credit: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images
In a statement, the Dutch National Ballet's artistic director, Ted Brandsen, described Smirnova as an "exceptional dancer who I admire very much."
"It is a privilege to have her dance with our company in the Netherlands -- even if the circumstances that drove this move are incredibly sad," he added.
The announcement comes a little over a week after two other Bolshoi members -- Brazilian soloist David Motta Soares and Italian principal dancer Jacopo Tissi -- both announced they were resigning. Explaining his decision via Instagram, Tissi said that Russia's actions left him "unable to continue with my career in Moscow," adding that "no war can be justified."
The Bolshoi Theatre's music director, Tugan Sokhiev, also quit earlier this month, amid growing pressure to condemn the invasion. In a lengthy statement, he also announced his resignation from the Toulouse Capitol National Orchestra, saying that calls for him to speak out left him with "the impossible option of choosing between my beloved Russian and beloved French musicians."
One of the world's oldest ballet companies, the Bolshoi is among Russia's most prestigious cultural institutions, though it has longstanding ties to the Russian state.
As a result, the UK's Royal Opera House has canceled a residency by the troupe, scheduled for this summer, according to a statement provided to CNN.
Elsewhere, the New York Metropolitan Opera's decision to cease working with any Russian artists or organizations that support Russian President Vladimir Putin means that it will likely freeze its relationship with the Bolshoi. The two institutions are currently scheduled to stage a co-production of Wagner's "Lohengrin" next year.
Top image caption: Dancer Olga Smirnova during a gala concert of the Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia and the Sveshnikov State Academic Russian Choir at the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.