Italian theater cancels performance of Russian ballet star

A Milan theater has canceled a ballet starring Sergei Polunin, citing pressure from critics and its own “social responsibility”

Italian theater cancels performance of Russian ballet star

Milan’s Arcimboldi Theater has announced cancellation of the ballet “Rasputin – Dance Drama,” starring Russian dancer Sergei Polunin and scheduled for 28 and 29 January 2023. Originally announced back in December 2019, the performance has been repeatedly postponed over various reasons, ranging from Covid-related restrictions to injury of the dancer, and now has been scrapped for good over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The cancellation has been prompted by “pressure on social media and web mobilization of the past few weeks against the artist’s performance,” the theater said in a statement on Friday.

Among other things, the theater faced an online petition against Polunin’s performance, with the motion getting signed by nearly 2,300 people, who condemned the artist and his self-proclaimed “admiration” of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The decision to cancel the long-postponed performance “was not a matter of a cultural sphere decision, but of social responsibility,” the theater stressed, adding that in a “climate of tension and threats we consider it difficult to sustain our artistic choices.”

The theater claimed that it values “pacifism and tolerance,” and therefore has hosted the Dance for Peace Gala, a charity event for Ukraine, back in April, as well as a Pussy Riot performance back in September. Those who have already procured tickets for the axed performance are now eligible for a refund, the theater noted.

Born in Ukraine, Polunin holds multiple joint Russian-Ukrainian-Serbian citizenship, and has spent his teen years at the academy of the British Royal Ballet in London. In early 2010s, the dancer moved to Russia, severing his ties with the Ukrainian scene and proclaiming his support for