Russia's Bolshoi calls off premiere of Nureyev ballet

FILE PHOTO: A sculpture of the Greek God Apollo is seen above the entrance of the Bolshoi Theatre in central Moscow, Russia March 28, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/Files Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Bolshoi Theatre has postponed the world premiere of Nureyev, a ballet about famous Russian dancer, weeks after its director Kirill Serebrennikov was questioned as a witness in a fraud investigation.

The long awaited premiere of the ballet about Rudolf Nureyev, one of the first Soviet artists to defect to the West, was due to be held on July 11 but the Bolshoi said on its website late on Saturday it would not take place.

The theater gave no reason for calling off the performance but said it would hold a briefing about the postponement on Monday.

Serebrennikov said it was the theatre’s decision but declined to comment on the reasons for the delay, according to the Vedomosti business daily.

In May, Russian investigators searched the home and office of Serebrennikov, the art director of the Gogol Centre theater, and questioned him as a witness in a criminal investigation into alleged embezzlement of state funds.

Serebrennikov was released, but two of his colleagues were arrested, provoking an outcry from the artistic community, some of whom have written to Putin to protest, according to Russian media reports.

In 1958-61 Nureyev was a principal dancer of the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet in St Petersburg. He asked for a political asylum in France while on a tour in Paris in 1961.

Reporting by Maria Kiselyova. Editing by Jane Merriman