Bolshoi Theater Drops Ballet About Life Of Nureyev From Repertoire Over 'Gay Propaganda' Law

The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow has dropped a ballet about Russian dance legend Rudolf Nureyev from its repertoire after a law on so-called "gay propaganda" was tightened.

Bolshoi director Vladimir Urin announced on April 19 that the ballet Nureyev would no longer be performed at the Bolshoi. He linked the decision to the toughening of the law, saying some scenes in the ballet could be regarded as LGBT propaganda.

Amendments to the 2013 "gay propaganda" law approved in December widened a ban on "the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." Russian authorities said the amendments were needed to help defend morality. Human rights groups and LGBT community advocates have widely criticized the law.

In comments carried by Russian news agencies, Urin said the Bolshoi removed Nureyev from its repertoire as soon as President Vladimir Putin signed the amendments into law on December 5. There was no explanation about why the move was only formally announced on April 19.

Nureyev, one of the first Soviet artists to defect to the West, died from an AIDS-related illness in 1993 at the age of 54. The dancer was a sensation in the Soviet Union at the time of his defection in 1961.

The ballet, based on his life, had a history of difficulties dating back to its premiere in 2017. Its use of nudity and profane language and its frank treatment of Nureyev's same-sex relationships outraged Russian conservatives.

The Bolshoi abruptly canceled its premiere in July 2017 after its director, Kirill Serebrennikov, was detained in a criminal inquiry involving arts funding.

Serebrennikov, one of Russia's most innovative and successful directors, was later found guilty of embezzling funds at Moscow's Gogol Center theater. His supporters said the conviction was revenge for his criticism of authoritarianism and homophobia under Putin.

Serebrennikov and his supporters also said the case against him was part of a politically motivated crackdown on Russia's arts community ahead of presidential elections the following year.

Serebrennikov left Russia last year within months of Russia’s launch of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He said at the time that the theater had been informed that Nureyev would no longer be performed, but it remained in the repertoire.