Bolshoi ballerina quits Pushkin production in protest

The Bolshoi's star ballerina has refused to take part in a production of Alexander Pushkin's novel "Eugene Onegin" in a dispute over her leading role, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Svetlana Zakharova, one of Russia's most famous ballerinas, "will not dance 'Onegin'," spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told AFP, in what media reports have suggested is a tantrum over her failure to be cast on opening night.

Zakharova was shown on television rehearsing for the role of Tatiana in choreographer John Cranko's reinterpretation of the 19th-century verse novel, but has now gone to ground.

She "is not at the theatre, and she is not picking up the telephone," Novikova said.

Asked whether Zakharova was considering quitting the theatre, Novikova said she could not comment, but added the ballerina would appear in the Bolshoi's upcoming London tour.

Russian newspaper Izvestia claimed Wednesday that Zakharova had stormed out of rehearsal after learning about the casting rotation for the ballet. The report said she was scheduled to dance on July 13 and 17, but not on the night of the premiere.

Tatiana is the novel's main female protagonist, who falls in love with the hero of the title, Eugene Onegin. Zakharova was to dance with American David Hallberg, her longtime dance partner.

On Thursday, neither Zakharova nor Hallberg were listed in the cast for any of the dates of the performance, but Novikova said that Hallberg will dance on later dates because he requires more time to rehearse due to his partner's abrupt exit.

Zakharova's protest follows a string of scandals in the historic theatre, notably a horrific acid attack on the ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin early this year. Filin has been treated in Germany for months, and remains at risk of permanent blindness.

The suspected mastermind of the attack is fellow dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, who is currently in pre-trial arrest. His girlfriend Angelina Vorontsova has quit the theatre.

Early last month the theatre also dismissed its star dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze after he called for the Bolshoi management to be sacked.

Svetlana Lunkina, a Bolshoi prima ballerina, last year moved to Canada, citing threats against her. The Bolshoi has said that her departure was likely due to the activities of her husband, who is being sued by his business partner.

And in 2011, the Bolshoi lost another pair of dancers when its stars Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova decided to leave the theatre due to its "limited repertoire".

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