Bolshoi ballet loses leading dancers to theatre in St Petersburg

One of the Bolshoi theatre’s most promising dance partnerships is leaving the Moscow company for St Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky theatre.

Prima ballerina Natalia Osipova, 25, and principal dancer Ivan Vasiliev, 22, will leave the newly renovated Bolshoi to work with the Mikhailovsky’s new Spanish artistic director, Nacho Duato. In January, modern choreographer Duato became the first foreigner in a century to lead a Russian ballet troupe, vowing to breathe new life into the Russian stage by bringing a modern twist to its classical repertoire.

Osipova and Vasiliev will debut at the theatre in March in a ballet especially created for them by Duato.

Mikhailovsky theatre director Vladimir Kekhman said he had signed the dancers to a five-year contract from 1 December, following talks that lasted a year and a half.

“The reason they are switching theatres is definitely not the money,” Kekhman said. “Money is irrelevant to creative people. They are coming here in search of creative growth.”

The new position will offer the dancers a chance to expand their repertoires and tour the world’s main stages, he said.

Osipova’s dance tutor, Marina Kondratyeva, told Russia‘s Izvestia daily newspaper: “These guys really want to dance, and the Bolshoi doesn’t give them enough performance opportunities.”

A Bolshoi spokeswoman, Katerina Novikova, said: “Both dancers are this theatre’s darlings, they became world-class dancers here, and we’d hoped they would have stayed with us for longer.”

Last month Osipova and Vasiliev performed in a gala concert to celebrate the Bolshoi’s re-opening after an extensive renovation that cost £440 million.

Their decision to quit caps a hectic year of reshuffling for the Bolshoi ballet troupe.

The company changed artistic director twice this year amid a sex scandal and in September it hired its first American principal dancer, David Hallberg, from the American Ballet Theatre.

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