The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow has removed a contemporary ballet about Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev from its repertoire due to the expansion of the so-called “gay propaganda law,” outlawing materials that promote an LGBTQ+ lifestyle, and restricting the “demonstration” of LGBTQ+ behaviour.

As a result of the law passed in November 2022, the portrayal of homosexuality, including Nureyev’s relationships with men after his defection from the Soviet Union in 1961, which the ballet touches on, has become almost impossible.

Choreographed by Kirill Serebrennikov, the ballet has had a complicated history in Russia. President Vladimir Putin has long advocated conservative values as part of a nationalist agenda backed by the Russian Orthodox Church.


The ballet premiered in December 2017, several months late, after the then-culture minister reportedly called it gay propaganda. However, it has not been performed since 2018, and performances scheduled for 2022 were abruptly cancelled after Serebrennikov publicly blamed Russia for the conflict in Ukraine.

“Regarding the law where issues related to the promotion of ‘non-traditional values’ are stipulated absolutely unequivocally, Nureyev was removed from the repertoire,” Vladimir Urin, the Bolshoi’s general director, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s leading film, theatre, and television directors and stage designers, expressed frustration at the decision. “This criminal ‘law’ was passed specifically against this show and against several books… Well, OK…” he wrote on his Telegram channel, adding three rainbows – an LGBTQ+ symbol.

Serebrennikov himself has encountered difficulties with Russian authorities and was detained in 2017 before being placed under house arrest for almost two years. Serebrennikov received a suspended sentence in 2020 on charges of embezzling a state subsidy. After he repaid the sum, the sentence was cancelled last year.