September 22, 2017 / 3:59 PM / a month ago

Russia's Bolshoi to premiere postponed 'Nureyev' ballet in December

An interior view shows the Bolshoi Theatre before a ceremony opening a new season in Moscow, Russia September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre said on Friday it would hold the postponed premiere of its ballet about late Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev in December, but probably with a new director standing in for the Kremlin critic who was originally in charge.

The premiere of the ballet was pulled on July 11, just two days before it had been due to open. The theatre said at the time the production was not ready and more rehearsal time was needed. It denied there was any ulterior motive.

But some Russian cultural figures said it was dropped because its edgy staging by director Kirill Serebrennikov -- whose experimental theatre pokes mocks the Russian establishment -- sat awkwardly with influential conservatives.

Serebrennikov was detained in August on charges of embezzling state funds. He is being held under house arrest until Oct. 19 pending trial. He denies the charges, which his supporters have called an attack on cultural freedoms.

“In the current circumstances, most likely Kirill Serebrennikov will not be able to personally participate in rehearsals, therefore director general Vladimir Urin obtained his consent to complete the work in his absence and stage the premiere on Dec. 9-10,” the Bolshoi said in a statement.

“Kirill Serebrennikov gave his consent to the theatre that, if the situation with his detention is not resolved, the ‘Nureyev’ production can be brought to premiere by the choreographer Yuri Posokhov,” it cited Urin as saying.

Urin said a contract had already been signed with Posokhov, who was Serebrennikov’s choreographer on “Nureyev” before the production was pulled.

Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov (R), who was accused of embezzling state funds and placed under house arrest, is escorted after a court hearing in Moscow, Russia September 4, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files

MOCKING ESTABLISHMENT

A large part of the work on the ballet had already been completed under Serebrennikov’s direction, and the main task now was to rehearse and perfect the choreography, Urin said.

The decision about the production was made during a meeting between Urin and Serebrennikov that was authorised by investigators handling the criminal case, the theatre said.

In some of his works, Serebrennikov has mocked the growing role of the state and the Russian Orthodox Church in society.

President Vladimir Putin denied this month that censorship or political pressure was behind his detention.

Russian investigators say Serebrennikov embezzled at least 68 million roubles ($1.18 million) in state funds earmarked for an art project.

Posokhov was for a decade from 1982 a dancer with the Bolshoi troupe, then had spells with the Royal Danish Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet. He has been working as a choreographer since the late 1990s.

($1 = 57.5976 roubles)

Additional reporting by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones

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