Italy theatre cancels show by Putin-tattooed Russian dancer

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ROME (Reuters) – An Italian theatre on Friday called off a show by a prominent Russian dancer who has three tattoos of President Vladimir Putin on his chest and shoulders, reacting to online protests over the artist’s scheduled appearance.

Sergei Polunin’s Jan. 28-29 show at Milan’s Arcimboldi theatre was cancelled “due to the pressing campaign (against it) on the internet and social media”, the theatre said on its website.

Polunin was due to star in the “Rasputin – Dance Drama” ballet, originally scheduled for 2019 and repeatedly postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theatre said the cancellation was an act of “political and moral responsibility”, given “a climate of tensions and threats”. A spokeswoman said the theatre had been subjected to an email campaign as well as many negative messages online.

The Arcimboldi, which said it had taken the decision in agreement with the artist’s company, said it was firmly against the war in Ukraine, noting it had staged shows by the Russian dissidents’ group Pussy Riot and Ukrainian artists.

Polunin, one of the biggest names in the dance world and a former principal at the Royal Ballet in London, was born in Ukraine, but acquired Russian citizenship in 2018. There was no immediate reply to a request for comment via his website.

In September, while on tour in Uzbekistan, he performed a dance in military uniform for fallen Russian soldiers, earning a reprimand from Uzbek authorities, who said he had deviated from an agreed programme.

Performances by Russian artists and Russian artworks have become controversial in the West, in the wake of Moscow’s military campaign against Ukraine, which started on Feb. 24.

In Milan, the La Scala opera house sidelined Russian conductor Valery Gergiev after he failed to condemn the invasion, but stood by its decision to open its 2022-2023 season with the Russian work “Boris Godunov”.

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