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­Defected dancers at center of ballet tour cancellation scandal

Published time: February 15, 2012 16:28
Edited time: February 15, 2012 20:35
Ivan Vasiliev and Natalya Osipova of the Mikhailovsky Theatre (RIA Novosti / Alexey Danichev)

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalya Osipova of the Mikhailovsky Theatre (RIA Novosti / Alexey Danichev)

St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theatre and its ballet troupe will not visit New York this summer due to its dancers’ double contracts.

The canceled tour's line-up was to include Natalya Osipova and Ivan Vasiliev, modern ballet’s biggest stars – who caused a sensation last fall when they left the Bolshoi Theatre for freedom in St. Petersburg.

And while being signed with the Mikhailovsky, both dancers also hold valid contracts with the American Ballet Theatre; Osipova is listed as its principal, while Vasiliev is a guest.

The contracts include a no-competition clause applied to both dancers, barring them from performing with other ballet companies anywhere near ABT’s shows. Ironically enough, Mikhailovsky’s summer 2012 tour was meant to pass through Manhattan's Lincoln Center – just around the corner from the New York Metropolitan Opera, which is scheduled to host ABT’s performances at about the same time.

The decision to bar Osipova and Vasiliev from performing with Mikhailovsky in New York reportedly came from ABT’s Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. Both the dancers’ agent and Mikhailovsky’s tour organizer Sergey Danilyan were aware of the no-compete clause, yet somehow expected the ABT to be "friendly.”

“I was thinking like a human being, that artists need to cooperate,” Danilyan added. “Unfortunately, the market today, it’s terrible — everybody fighting for themselves,” he told the The New York Times.

The tour was to include classical Giselle production, Sleeping Beauty and several one-act ballets staged by Mikhailovsky’s Artistic Director Nacho Duato, a pioneer of contemporary ballet famous for his eccentric approach to classical productions. According to the Times, work on organizing the tour began before Osipova and Vasiliev had even joined the St. Petersburg troupe. When signed, they were included in the tour’s program.

Mikhailovsky ballet’s tour to the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center was never officially announced, but the theatre’s administration has confirmed that the theatre had such plans.