It’s being hailed as Russian ballet’s 21st century defection. Not since the likes of Nureyev and Baryshnikov has the story of two dancers leaving a Russian ballet company made so many headlines around the world. Principal dancers of the Bolshoi ballet Vasiliev and his fiancee Osipova will make their controversial leap across Russia to join the Mikhailovsky Theatre on the 1st December and have both signed five month contracts.
The news appears to have caught the Bolshoi off guard with senior directors questioning the motivation for the move despite the pair having been in talks with the Mikhailovsky for 18 months and openly citing their reason for leaving as being ‘in search of artistic growth’.
The motivations of the principal dancers, much the same as the motivations for defectors Makarova, the Panovs, Nureyev and Baryshnikov during the Cold War, should ring alarm bells for the Bolshoi. Even now in the 21st century, 20 years on from the end of the artistic repression of Soviet rule, the company appears to have stale repertoire which clearly isn’t challenging its dancers or its audience.
According to her coach Marina Kondratyeva, the extremely talented Osipova is keen to tour and guest in companies around the world. Their large fan base will be delighted to hear this news as Osipova and Vasiliev delighted audiences this summer when they guested in London in Frederick Ashton’s Romeo & Juliet.
Let’s hope the talented duo get their way and make it to the Great British theatres soon.