Russian ballet about life of Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev dropped due to ‘gay propaganda’ law

Moscow’s historic Bolshoi Theatre has dropped a ballet about legendary Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev because of a law that bans LGBTQ+ “propaganda”.

The law was signed in December to expand the country’s ban on “LGBTQ+ propaganda” in the media to all age groups. The original 2013 law only related to children.

On Wednesday (19 April), the Bolshoi’s general director, Vladimir Urin, said the ballet was “removed from the repertoire in connection with the law… where issues related to the promotion of ‘non-traditional values’ are stipulated absolutely unequivocally,” Reuters reported.

Being about Nureyev, the ballet would have touched on his relationships with men after he defected to the West in 1961.

He was known to have long-term relationships with prominent male dancers Erik Bruhn and Robert Tracy up until his death from an AIDS-related illness in 1993.

The ballet has had a troubled past, premiering months later than originally planned in 2017 after Russia’s culture minister at the time reportedly called it gay propaganda.

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Performances had been scheduled for 2022 – before the law was enacted, or even voted on – but were abruptly cancelled after the ballet’s choreographer, Kirill Serebrennikov, publically blamed Russia for the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

It has not been performed since 2018.

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Serebrennikov was reported to have spoken out against the decision to drop the ballet, writing in a telegram channel: “This criminal ‘law’ was passed specifically against this show and against several books.”

The announcement of the ballet being axed comes little more than a week after the death of the French choreographer who helped Nureyev defect from the Soviet Union.

French ballet dancer Pierre Lacotte helped Nureyev escape KGB agents in Paris and seek asylum at Le Bourget airport, according to BBC News.

The decision to defect came at a cost, however, with the careers of Nureyev’s Soviet friends suffering. He was only allowed to return to the country more than 25 years later – after obtaining consent from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – to see his dying mother.

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