In first, US ballet star joins Russia's Bolshoi

US ballet star David Hallberg is to join Russia's Bolshoi Theatre for the new season, the first time an American has become a member of the legendary company, sources said Wednesday.

Whereas Russian dancers including Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov famously defected to the West from the Soviet Union, this is the first time that a Western dancer is to perform full time with the Bolshoi.

"David Hallberg is indeed joining the Bolshoi troupe. The official announcement will be made at the presentation of the company for the new season on Thursday," a Bolshoi source told AFP.

Hallberg, 29, is one of the hottest properties in international ballet, famed for his technical brilliance as well as his filmstar good looks that make him a prime example of the "noble" male dancer of classical ballets.

Since 2005, he has been one of the main attractions of the American Ballet Theatre.

He will be joining the Bolshoi at an exciting time for the company, which is moving back into its historic home theatre after a half-decade-long closure for a much prolonged restoration.

"Personally, I feel a sense of responsibility as an American," The New York Times quoted Hallberg as saying. "I will be bringing something different to the company, but I will also be respecting their traditions as well."

Western dancers have on occasion over the last years made guest appearances with the Bolshoi and its main rival, the Mariinsky Theatre of Saint Petersburg.

But in contrast to Western companies like London's Royal Ballet, the Russian theatres have until now drawn their troupes exclusively from Russia and the former Soviet Union.