Heads Up: Bolshoi Ballet at London's Royal Opera House

Jealousy, enmity, passion ... and then the dancing starts

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? The troubled Russian company comes to London – on the 50th anniversary of its first visit – with a season of five works: Swan Lake, La Bayadère, The Sleeping Beauty, Jewels, and The Flames of Paris.

Elevator pitch The flames of London: scandal-hit ballet company sets Covent Garden alight.

Prime movers It's not yet known whether the company's artistic director, Sergei Filin, will be well enough to travel to London, following a horrific acid attack in January.

The stars Well, some of those due to arrive aren't coming … dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze's name is off the list; his contract has been terminated after he made public statements of support for Pavel Dmitrichenko, who was arrested following the acid attack. Leading ballerinas still slated to star include leading lady Svetlana Zakharova and up-and-coming talent Olga Smirnova.

The early buzz Wary anticipation, basically. Website The Arts Desk writes: "Nothing is certain about Bolshoi casts even till the last minute, judging from their last visit in 2010 when Zakharova pulled out with just days to go …. Events have cast a pall of horror over what should have been a celebratory return to London." Time Out writes: "The Bolshoi Ballet was in the news for all the wrong reasons earlier this year …. But the company will be putting on a united front for their summer season at the Royal Opera House and the dancing is likely to be as good as ever. The season opens with no doubt much-needed escapism in the form of a classic Swan Lake."

Insider knowledge Jewels is itself a substitute: the season was due to include British choreographer Wayne McGregor's new centenary take on Rite of Spring. Without Filin, it has been postponed.

It's great that … there's one chance to see star couple Natalia Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev perform a ballet created for them by former Bolshoi director, Alexei Ratmansky – The Flames of Paris – even though, technically, they're no longer part of the Bolshoi.

It's a shame that … much of the interest in the season inevitably has a certain car-crash voyeurism to it now (and yes, we know we're guilty too).

Hit potential The quality of dancing is still high, the programming appealing. Barring no-shows and other controversies, it should be a hit.

The details The Bolshoi Ballet is at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 (roh.org.uk), 29 July to 17 August.