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Russia's Bolshoi cancels Nureyev ballet, denies gay censorship

11 July 2017

Russia's Bolshoi theatre has abruptly cancelled this week's world premiere of a ballet about Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev, staged by a top director who has been questioned in a high-profile criminal probe.

The much-anticipated Nuyerev was scheduled to open on Tuesday at the theater, just blocks from the Kremlin.

Russia's vaguely worded law prohibiting the propaganda of homosexuality among minors can be interpreted to ban public displays of affection between LGBT people.

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Photo From left, Makhar Vaziev, director of the Bolshoi Ballet, and Vladimir G. Urin, general director of the Bolshoi Theater at a news conference on Monday. In a daring move, in 1961 he gave his KGB minders the slip while on tour in Paris and defected to the West, where he became a star as a dancer at the Royal Ballet in London and as a director at Paris Opera Ballet.

The general suspicion in cultural circles and in news media reports was that a ballet celebrating a gay man who had fled the Soviet Union - there is a line in the piece about Russian Federation ejecting its most talented people - and presented on the main stage of the country's most prestigious theater was too much for the government to bear. The film and theater director is known for boundary-pushing productions that frequently poke fun at Russia's ever increasing social conservatism.

The ballet's composer is Ilya Demutsky, author of the libretto, director and set designer is Kirill Serebrennikov, choreographer is Yuri Posokhov. The Bolshoi Theater announced the cancellation over the weekend on its website.

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Serebrennikov was released, but two of his colleagues were arrested, provoking an outcry from the artistic community, some of whom have written to Putin to protest, according to Russian media reports.

The Bolshoi reportedly said the premiere has simply been "postponed to a later date" until it is ready to run.

"There will be reputational damage from cancelling, but for us the most important thing is the quality of the production", said Urin. "I do not want to turn this into a political discussion", Mr. Urin said.

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Russia's Bolshoi cancels Nureyev ballet, denies gay censorship