Russia's troubled Nureyev production sweeps board at ballet awards

MOSCOW, June 5 (Reuters) - A ballet about Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev which tested the Kremlin’s tolerance with its evocation of gay romance on Tuesday picked up the major prizes at one of the ballet world’s most prestigious awards ceremonies.

Among the award winners in the Prix Benois ceremony was the ballet’s original choreographer Kirill Serebrennikov, who is awaiting trial on what his supporters say are charges trumped up to punish him for challenging the Russian establishment.

The Nureyev ballet - which was completed by a stand-in choreographer because Serebrennikov was under house arrest - won in the best male dancer, best composer, and best choreographer categories, in addition to Serebrennikov’s gong for best production design.

Serebrennikov was not present at the ceremony, at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre. The ballet’s composer, Ilya Demutsky, accepted the statuette on his behalf and told the audience: “We will pass it on to him.”

Regarded as one of ballet’s most gifted male dancers and an accomplished choreographer, Nureyev died in 1993 from AIDS.

The ballet about his life had been due to open at the Bolshoi Theatre in July last year but was cancelled at the last minute, with the theatre’s management saying it was not ready.

At the time, Russian state news agency TASS quoted a source close to the culture ministry saying there were concerns about the ballet’s theme of homosexuality.

The ballet finally had its premiere in December last year, but the producers at the Bolshoi ballet gave it an 18+ rating.

Serebrennikov is charged with embezzling state funds, an allegation he has denied.

Some of his supporters have said he is being victimised because his edgy, avant-garde productions and his liberal views have irked social conservatives who have acquired influence in Russian state institutions.

The Kremlin has denied that Serebrennikov’s prosecution is politically-motivated. (Reporting by Olga Sichkar Writing by Christian Lowe Editing by Gareth Jones)