French ballet director joins German company after Russia exit
French ballet star Laurent Hilaire was named director of one of Germany's top dance companies on Thursday, two months after he resigned from Moscow's Stanislavski Theatre over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Bayerisches Staatsballett (Bavarian State Ballet) tweeted that Hilaire had been appointed by the German state's arts minister, Markus Blume, and would begin on Monday.
"Our warmest congratulations and Bonne Chance in all respects!" it said.
Hilaire replaces Russian director Igor Zelensky, who left in April citing "personal reasons", and has a contract running until 2026.
He had told AFP in February, after the Kremlin launched its all-out assault on its pro-Western neighbour, that he had resigned as director of the Stanislavski Theatre company and was leaving Moscow.
"I am departing with a heavy heart, but the context no longer allows me to work with peace of mind," he said at the time.
Hilaire was named director of dance at the Stanislavski Academic Musical Theatre in 2017, becoming only the second Frenchman to direct a ballet company in Russia in some 150 years.
He followed in the footsteps of Marius Petipa, a legendary ballet master and choreographer who directed the Saint Petersburg Imperial Ballet in the 19th century.
Born in 1962, Hilaire has been celebrated as one of the most brilliant dancers of his generation, and was "etoile" or principal dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet for more than two decades before heading to Moscow.
He was just 22 when, in 1985, Rudolf Nureyev, a Siberia-born ballet dancer and choreographer who had defected from the Soviet Union, gave him the highest rank possible within a professional dance company.
Even at the height of the Cold War in the 20th century, regular exchange between Western and Russian opera and ballet stars continued.
This time, however, a far more stringent cultural boycott has fallen into place, with some of the world's leading Russian performers being stripped of their jobs in the West and Western stars quitting Russia.
Germany's Munich Philharmonic fired Russian conductor and Kremlin loyalist Valery Gergiev in March after he failed to denounce Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
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