Nacho Duato signs Bolshoi stars Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova

The two biggest stars of the Bolshoi Ballet are leaving the company to join the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg under the directorship of the Spanish choreographer, Nacho Duato.

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova have signed five year contracts after 18 months of talks and will perform with the company from December 1.

“Given my roots in Moscow, the decision to move to the Mikhailovsky was a very serious step for me”, Osipova said.

“The main reason behind my decision to leave the Bolshoi Theatre was the lack of repertoire – I have danced everything I could possibly dance there. We have come for artistic freedom. My life had become too comfortable, and I feel a strong compulsion to change it somehow, to free myself from this fixed course, which had become rather too relaxed”.

Katerina Novikova, a spokeswoman for the Bolshoi, told Agence-France Presse that the company hoped that the dancers would change their minds. She pointed out that the pair were leaving just as the Bolshoi had reopened following a major renovation.

In a dig at their new home, she added: “And not even to the Paris Opera, but to the Mikhailovsky Theatre”.

The couple, who are engaged, are extraordinary dancers, as you can see from the Don Quixote pas de deux.

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Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, photo © Damir Yusupov/ Bolshoi Ballet