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Pro-Putin Russian ballerina's Seoul performance canceled amid backlash

March 15, 2024 - 20:56 By Yonhap
Svetlana Zakharova, a Ukrainian-born Russian principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet (Yonhap)

A Seoul ballet performance featuring Russia's star ballerina, Svetlana Zakharova, was canceled Friday due to public backlash over staging shows by individuals supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially amid the conflict between Moscow and Kyiv.

The Ukrainian-born Russian principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet was scheduled to perform in "Modanse" at the Seoul Arts Center on April 17 and 19-21 with leading dancers from the same ballet troupe.

Despite her position as a world-class dancer, the news of her planned tour has drawn opposition from the Korean public due to her pro-Putin stance.

On Friday, InArts Production, which organized the show, announced its decision to cancel the controversial performance, citing concerns over the safety of the artist and audiences, and a request from the Seoul Arts Center.

"We sincerely apologize to the audience who had been looking forward to this show and ask for your deep understanding," the company said in a statement.

The Russian Embassy in Seoul expressed regret over the decision, saying "cooperation in the area of arts and performances should not be held hostage in the game of politics."

"We cannot help but pay attention to the unscrupulous campaigns launched by many diplomatic representatives in Korea from third countries to discredit upcoming shows of Russian ballet and inappropriate demands to stop cultural exchanges with Russia," the embassy said in a commentary.

Zakharova worked as a federal legislator as a member of the United Russia party led by Putin and is now a member of the Russian National Arts Council.

In 2014, she joined Valery Gergiev, the director of the Bolshoi Theatre, who is known for his close ties to Putin, in signing a letter supporting Russia's annexation of Crimea.

The Ukrainian Embassy in South Korea had also opposed the performance, saying allowing performances by artists from an invading country is tantamount to justifying the ongoing war against Ukraine and disregarding the suffering of the Ukrainian people.

With the show's cancellation, media attention is now being paid to whether performances by other Russian ballet dancers will proceed as planned or not.

The "Bolshoi Ballet Gala Concert 2024 in Seoul," another show featuring dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet, is slated for April 16-18 at Seoul's Sejong Centre for the Performing Arts.

Additionally, there will be a performance by six ballet troupes, including Russia's Mariinsky Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet, in South Korea from May 16-19. (Yonhap)