Bolshoi Star Olga Smirnova Leaves Moscow for Dutch National Ballet

March 16, 2022

The Dutch National Ballet announced today that Olga Smirnova, a star dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, will be joining the Amsterdam-based company as a principal, effective immediately. Victor Caixeta, a Brazilian-born soloist with the Mariinsky Ballet, will also be joining DNB. Both dancers will make their debuts in the company’s upcoming premiere of Raymonda.

Smirnova, who was born in St. Petersburg and trained at its revered Vaganova Ballet Academy, has been vocal about her opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The ballerina, who is a quarter Ukrainian, made a bold statement on the Telegram app last week: “I am against war with all the fibres of my soul […] 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.”

Olga Smirnova is photographed from behind, wearing a dark leotard and pointe shoes. She poses in an attitude derriere with her left leg crossed behind her and her arms above her head with wrists crossed. She looks over her left shoulder so that her face is in profile.
Photo by Darian Volkova, courtesy of Dutch National Ballet

According to a press release from Dutch National Ballet, Smirnova’s public stance has made it “untenable for her to work in her native country.” (Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a new law making it illegal to publish or broadcast what it considers “false information” or to refer to the conflict as war.) The company notes that Smirnova was attracted to DNB’s varied repertoire and is a great admirer of both resident choreographer Hans Van Manen and ballet master Larissa Lezhnina. “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 said in a statement. 

“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,” said artistic director Ted Brandsen in the release.

Victor Caixeta rehearses Paquita during the Mariinsky Ballet’s 2019 tour to the Kennedy Center. Photo by Quinn Wharton

Caixeta, 22, announced his departure from the Mariinsky on March 7, noting that it was a difficult but necessary decision based on the circumstances in Ukraine. He is one of many foreign-born dancers to leave Russia since the war broke out last month. “Victor is a hugely charismatic dancer and we are thrilled to be welcoming him to Dutch National Ballet,” said Brandsen.

Smirnova’s first performance with the company will be the title role in Raymonda, a brand-new production led by DNB associate artistic director Rachel Beaujean, based on the original by Marius Petipa. It premieres on April 3.