Two senior dancers with the Royal Ballet are to boycott the company’s first visit to Russia for more than a decade in protest at President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay legislation.
The unnamed dancers – one male, one female – have pulled out of the tour which begins next week. The snub will embarrass Mr Putin, as Russia, boasting the Bolshoi in Moscow and the Mariinsky (formerly the Kirov) in St Petersburg, is widely considered the home of classical ballet.
The Royal Ballet is set to perform at the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow from 17-22 June. The programme will include Manon by Kenneth MacMillan, one of the signature works from the company’s repertory, and Tetractys – The Art of Fugue by choreographer Wayne McGregor.
The Royal Ballet said the boycott would not disrupt the planned performances. A spokesman said: “There are two dancers who have chosen not to travel for those [political] reasons, out of a 96-strong company. There are also five or six more who won’t be going for family reasons. Dancers don’t have to go on tour. The absences will not require changes to the choreography.”
The Royal Ballet declined to disclose if the two dancers not participating were themselves gay. Dancers who are still going on the tour include Carlos Acosta, the Cuban star, and English performers Lauren Cuthbertson and Edward Watson.
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