Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova has decided to join Dutch National Ballet – where she will start immediately and be welcomed with open arms. One of the leading stars of the Bolshoi Ballet, Smirnova was outspoken in her recent denouncement of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is making it untenable for her to work in her native country. What’s more, Russia’s ties with the artistic community – which are so essential to the ballet world – have been substantially cut due to the conflict in Ukraine. Smirnova’s decision to make the move to the Netherlands has to do with several factors: Dutch National Ballet has long been on her wish list, the company is internationally renowned, and it has a rich and varied repertoire that includes both classical and contemporary dance. She is also a huge fan of Dutch National Ballet’s resident choreographer Hans van Manen and greatly admires ballet master Larissa Lezhnina, who has the same Russian background and training as Smirnova. Olga Smirnova dances her first role in the ballet classic Raymonda, which will premiere on 3 April at Dutch National Opera & Ballet in Amsterdam.

Bolshoi Ballet Olga Smirnova in the “Diamonds” section of Balanchine’s “Jewels,” performed at the Royal Opera House in London. Photo Marc Haegeman

Olga Smirnova 
“I have to be honest and say that I am against war with all the fibers of my soul. It is not only about every other Russian perhaps having relatives or friends living in Ukraine, or about my grandfather being Ukrainian and me being quarter Ukrainian. It is that we continue to live as if this were the 20th century, even though we have formally moved to the 21st century. In a modern and enlightened world, I expect civilized societies to resolve political matters only through peaceful negotiations. I never thought I would be ashamed of Russia, I have always been proud of talented Russian people, of our cultural and athletic achievements. But now I feel  that a line has been drawn that separates the before and the after. It hurts that people are dying, that people are losing the roofs over their heads or are forced to abandon their homes. And who would have thought a few weeks ago that all of this would happen? We may not be at the epicentre of the military conflict, but we cannot remain indifferent to this global catastrophe.” (Olga earlier this month on Telegram)

Ted Brandsen director Dutch National Ballet
“Olga Smirnova is an exceptional dancer who I admire very much. I have followed her career with great interest for many years. It is a privilege to have her dance with our company in the Netherlands — even if the circumstances that drove this move are incredibly sad. Nevertheless, as a company we are pleased to have such an inspiring dancer join us at Dutch National Ballet.”