On Wednesday 16 March, Russian prima ballerina Olga Smirnova and Brazilian soloist Victor Caixeta have decided to join Dutch National Ballet – where they 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.
Earlier this month, Smirnova stated (on Telegram): "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.
"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."
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 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," said Ted Brandsen, director of Dutch National Ballet.
First title role in ballet classic Raymonda
Smirnova's first role with Dutch National Ballet will be in the title role of the ballet Raymonda, in which she will feature in several performances. This ultimate ballet classic will premiere on 3 April. For the first time in the Netherlands, we are presenting our very own production of Marius Petipa’s legendary ballet Raymonda – a model of classical ballet technique that is famed for its beautiful variations, pas de deux and character dances. Associate artistic director Rachel Beaujean – assisted by a team that includes Ted Brandsen and Grigori Tchitcherine – will be creating a brand-new version of this Russian masterpiece. Its original choreographic splendour will be retained, but the story will be given an exciting new twist.
Victor Caixeta also joining Dutch National Ballet
Victor Caixeta, the 22-year-old rising star and soloist of Mariinsky Ballet in St Petersburg, who was born and raised in Brazil, will also join Dutch National Ballet. Caixeta: “The current circumstances have meant I’ve had to make the hard decision of leaving Russia – the place I’ve called home for almost 5 years, as well as the theatre that has given me such an amazing start to my professional career. I look forward to joining Dutch National Ballet and to continue developing as an artist and a person.”
"Victor Caixeta will also be dancing in Raymonda. Victor is a hugely talented and charismatic dancer and we are thrilled to be welcoming him to Dutch National Ballet," said Ted Brandsen.