The prima ballerina Olga Smirnova, one of Russia’s biggest dance stars, has quit the Bolshoi Ballet company in Moscow after denouncing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It was announced on Wednesday that Smirnova, who was born and raised in St Petersburg, has now joined the Dutch National Ballet, where she will start immediately alongside the Brazilian soloist Victor Caixeta, who has left the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg in response to the war.
In a statement, Dutch National Ballet said that the invasion had made it untenable for Smirnova to continue to work in Russia. Earlier this month, she posted an emotional message on the social media app Telegram saying that she was against the war “with all the fibers of my soul”. The dancer, who has a Ukrainian grandfather, said “we can not remain indifferent to this global catastrophe” and that she expected political matters to be resolved only through peaceful negotiations. “I never thought I would be ashamed of Russia, I have always been proud of talented Russian people, of our cultural and athletic achievements,” she added. “But now I feel that a line has been drawn that separates the before and the after.”
Smirnova, who became a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi in 2016, is the first Russian to quit the lauded company over the war. She said that she had been considering a move before Russia’s invasion but that “the current circumstances accelerated this process”. Ted Brandsen, director of Dutch National Ballet, said Smirnova was an exceptional dancer, that he had followed her career di lei for many years and that it would be a privilege to have her in the company, albeit in such “incredibly sad” circumstances.
Her first role with the company will be as the eponymous heroine of Marius Petipa’s Raymonda, which opens in Amsterdam on 3 April. She will be joined in Raymonda by Caixeta, who said: “The current circumstances have meant I’ve had to make the hard decision of leaving Russia – the place I’ve called home for almost five years”.