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Russia: Bolshoi ballet about Nureyev dropped due to ban on ‘LGBT propaganda’

Thursday 25 May 2023, by siawi3


Bolshoi ballet about Nureyev dropped due to ban on ‘LGBT propaganda’

Russian law restricts ‘demonstration’ of LGBTQ+ behaviour, preventing portrayal of dancer’s homosexual relationships

Reuters in Moscow

Wed 19 Apr 2023 21.14 BST
First published on Wed 19 Apr 2023 20.08 BST

Moscow’s Bolshoi theatre has dropped a contemporary ballet about the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev from its repertoire after the expansion of a ban on “LGBT propaganda”.

A law passed in November not only widened an existing prohibition on material considered to promote an LGBTQ+ lifestyle but also restricts the “demonstration” of LGBTQ+ behaviour.

This makes any portrayal of homosexuality – such as Nureyev’s relationships with men after his defection from the Soviet Union in 1961, which the ballet touches on – almost impossible.

The ballet, choreographed by Kirill Serebrennikov, has had a troubled history in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has long promoted conservative values as part of a nationalist agenda backed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

It premiered in December 2017, several months late, after the then-culture minister reportedly called it gay propaganda, and has not been performed since 2021. Performances scheduled for 2022 were abruptly cancelled after Serebrennikov publicly blamed Russia for the conflict in Ukraine.

“Nureyev was removed from the repertoire in connection with the law … where issues related to the promotion of ‘non-traditional values’ are stipulated absolutely unequivocally,” Vladimir Urin, general director of the Bolshoi, told a news conference on Wednesday.

Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s leading film, theatre and television directors and stage designers, made his frustration clear.

“This criminal ‘law’ was passed specifically against this show and against several books … Well, OK …” he wrote on his Telegram channel, adding three rainbows – an LGBTQ+ symbol.

Serebrennikov has himself fallen foul of Russian authorities.

He was detained in 2017 and held in house arrest for almost two years, to the outrage of Russia’s liberal cultural establishment, before being given a suspended sentence in 2020 on charges of embezzling a state subsidy. After he repaid the sum, the sentence was cancelled last year.

This article was amended on 26 April 2023. The ballet was last performed in 2021, not 2018.