Moscow’s Bolshoi theater has removed a contemporary ballet about the great Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev from its repertory, following the extension of a ban on “Gay propaganda”.
A law enacted in November limits both the “demonstration” of LGBT behavior and broadens the current ban on materials deemed to encourage an LGBT lifestyle.
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 2018. 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 LGBT 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.