Ballerina Olga Smirnova, one of Russia’s top dancers, has quit the prestigious Bolshoi in Moscow, becoming the biggest star to leave Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Smirnova, who will now join the Dutch National Ballet, had expressed her opposition to the war earlier this month, saying she could not “remain indifferent to this global catastrophe”.
In a post to her online platform, Smirnova had said she was “against war with all the fibres of my soul”.
“It is not only about every other Russian perhaps having relatives or friends living in Ukraine, or about my grandfather being Ukrainian it is that we continue to live as if this were the 20th century,” Smirnova said.
She will join Brazilian dancer Victor Caixeta, who has spent five years at the Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg, and is also joining the Amsterdam-based company.
The Dutch National Ballet welcomed Smirnova’s arrival in a statement.
“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,” director Ted Brandsen said.
Several foreign performers have quit their positions in Russia since the invasion, but Smirnova is considered one of the biggest local stars to leave.
The 30-year-old’s departure from Russia’s prestigious cultural institution carries echoes of defections during the Cold War.
The Soviet Union recorded a number of defections by high-profile performers, most notably Soviet-born ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev, who claimed asylum during a visit by the Kirov ballet to Paris in 1961.