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Russian ballerina Olga Smirnova quits Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow over the war in Ukraine

The prima ballerina announced she was joining Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam in the wake of the war.

Image source: Dutch National Ballet

Russian ballerina Olga Smirnova is leaving an internationally renowned classical ballet company based in Moscow, Russia, to protest her country's invasion of Ukraine. Smirnova, a prima ballerina, has been with Bolshoi Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre for more than a decade. She has now decided to dance for the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. Smirnova considers herself "one-quarter Ukrainian" as her grandfather is Ukrainian. Smirnova's decision to leave Bolshoi Ballet is part of a growing movement of Russians condemning and distancing themselves from Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine, reported My Modern Met.

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Smirnova has been very vocal on the actions of the Russian forces since days after they invaded Ukraine. She told her fans that she is “against war with every fiber of my soul.” The Dutch National Ballet announced her arrival along with a statement of her condemning the war. “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 the 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," she wrote. 

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“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 epicenter of the military conflict, but we cannot remain indifferent to this global catastrophe.” Olga Smirnova was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and studied under the legendary Lyudmila Kovaleva. She joined the Bolshoi Ballet in the rank of soloist in 2011 before being promoted to the rank of a prima ballerina in 2016. She has performed all over the world and worked with prestigious companies including Mariinsky Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Wiener Staatsballett, Hamburg Ballett and Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, according to Dutch National Ballet.

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She added that she had always dreamt of working with the Dutch National Ballet but it was the invasion that finalized her decision. "Dutch National Ballet is a good fit for me and a great place to further my career as a ballerina. I had been thinking about this type of a move for quite a while — it’s just that the current circumstances accelerated this process," she wrote. Dutch National Ballet is known for both classical and contemporary dance.

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“Olga Smirnova is an exceptional dancer who I admire very much. I have followed her career with a 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," said Ted Brandsen, director of Dutch National Ballet.

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The Bolshoi Ballet was founded in 1776 and is one of the world's oldest ballet companies. Smirnova's exit is the most high-profile exit in the wake of the war. Early in March, the principal dancer Jacopo Tissi, leading soloist David Motta Soares and music director Tugan Sokhiev quit the Bolshoi Ballet, reported Yahoo News. "I am shocked by this situation that has come upon us from one day to the next, and quite honestly, I find myself unable to continue with my career in Moscow, for the time being," wrote Jacopo Tissi on Instagram. "As a human being, I feel empathy toward all the people and their families that are suffering. No war can be justified. Ever." 

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"Today I am forced to make a choice and choose one of my musical family over the other. I am being asked to choose one cultural tradition over the over," wrote Sokhiev after announcing he was quitting the Bolshoi Theatre as principal conductor and music director.

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