Injured ballerina told the show must not go on

Sylvie Guillem, the most celebrated ballerina in the world, has been forced to cancel the first three performances of a new one-week show starting today after injuring her leg.

The French dancer had been due to star in Stories of Love and Passion at The Royal Opera House. She has cancelled the shows after straining a tendon in her left ankle during rehearsals last Wednesday.

Lilian Hochhauser, of Victor Hochhauser, the company behind the show, said: "She consulted an eminent ankle specialist and underwent a scan. We're hoping she will start the season - a truncated season unfortunately - on Thursday."

Tickets for the cancelled shows, which cost up to £75, will be refunded.

Renowned for coping with the most gruelling of schedules, Guillem has suffered few injuries since she joined the Paris Opera Ballet. In 2001 she suffered an injury to her achilles tendon which kept her off the stage for the longest period of her dancing career.

Zoe Anderson, dance critic of The Independent said: "She's been very careful in the past. Because she's in the unusual position of being a guest dancer, she gets to pick and choose. But all of the noises being made suggest that this isn't a serious injury."

Guillem left her native France in 1989, ditching Rudolf Nureyev's reign at the Paris Opera Ballet. Since then Guillem has excelled in classical and contemporary dance, and has become known for her high kicks and toughness of character.

Despite the fact that her partner, Jonathan Cope has also has to pull out of the performance due to injury, the show will go on. The first of the remaining performances is expected on Thursday.