Olga Smirnova, a star of the internationally renowned Moscow-based Bolshoi Ballet decided to follow her conscience and quit when her country invaded the neighbouring Ukraine.
“I had to follow my conscience,” said Olga Smirnova about her decision to quit the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet.
Now 30, Smirnova was recruited into the Bolshoi immediately after graduating from ballet school in 2011. Her career progressed quickly, and she became the ballet’s prima ballerina in 2016.
Her country’s invasion of Ukraine was a shock to her, but she hoped the war would end soon. When it did not Smirnova could not stop thinking about the millions of people displaced by the conflict. Before the war had lasted a week she posted on Telegram how she felt about the situation: “I am against the war with all my soul. I never believed I could be ashamed of Russia.”
She left Moscow and travelled to Dubai to treat an injury. After that, she applied to join the Dutch National Ballet. She said that only its artistic director, Ted Brandsen, and her husband, knew of her decision to do it.
Smirnova said that her parents, who remain in Russia, were shocked by her decision. “For them, it's still not really acceptable that I left the country and left the Bolshoi."
As for her colleagues, she said that there was barely any reaction from them. She said that she feels she lost almost all contact with the other members of Bolshoi, and does not know what they think about the war. She can only speculate. “Maybe they didn't understand my decision. Maybe they are just protecting themselves from the truth... just thinking ‘I'm a dancer, I am far from these political things.’”
“History changes, but the Bolshoi stays,” said Smirnova, and expressed concern for her former colleagues’ careers, in spite of not being in touch with them anymore. “For the Bolshoi 20 years is nothing, but for a dancer, it's their whole life.”