November 14, 2011 / 4:41 PM / 9 years ago

Top Bolshoi dancers defect to modern Mikhailovsky

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One of the Bolshoi Theatre’s most promising dance partnerships is leaving its Moscow stage to join the Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg, both companies told Reuters on Monday.

Bolshoi Ballet's Natalia Osipova performs during a rehearsal for "Reflections" at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, January 26, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

Prima ballerina Natalia Osipova, 25, and principal dancer Ivan Vasiliev, 22, will leave the newly renovated Bolshoi to work with the Mikhailovsky Theatre’s new Spanish artistic director Nacho Duato.

In January, modern choreographer Duato became the first foreigner in a century to lead a Russian ballet troupe, vowing to breathe new life into the Russian stage by bringing a modern twist to its classical repertoire.

Osipova and Vasiliev will debut at their new theater in March in a ballet tailor-made for them by Duato.

Mikhailovsky Theater director Vladimir Kekhman told Reuters he had signed the dancers to a five-year contract from December 1, following talks that lasted a year and half.

“The reason they are switching theatres is definitely not the money,” Kekhman said. “Money is irrelevant to creative people. They are coming here in search of creative growth.”

The new position will offer the dancers a chance to expand their repertoires and tour the world’s main stages, he said.

“These guys really want to dance, and the Bolshoi doesn’t give them enough performance opportunities,” Osipova’s dance tutor Marina Kondratyeva told Russia’s Izvestia daily newspaper.

“They hope to have a contract that will allow them to tour more, they have many offers from other theatres around the world,” she said in an article published on Monday.

The Bolshoi, which has just re-opened after a six-year renovation, expressed regret that the dancers were leaving.

“Both dancers are this theatre’s darlings, they became world-class dancers here, and we’d hoped they would have stayed with us for longer,” Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told Reuters.

Osipova and Vasiliev’s decision to quit caps a hectic year of reshuffling for the Bolshoi ballet troupe.

The company changed artistic director twice this year amid a sex scandal, and, in September, hired its first American principle dancer, David Hallberg, away from the American Ballet Theater.

Most recently, Osipova and Vasiliev performed in a gala concert last month to celebrate the Bolshoi’s re-opening after an extensive renovation which cost $700 million to revive one of Russia’s most revered cultural symbols.

Reporting by Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and Olga Sichkar; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel

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