French ballet director Laurent Hilaire quits Russia company over Ukraine invasion

Hilaire, 59, said he would also be leaving Moscow. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - French ballet master Laurent Hilaire has resigned from his position as director of the Stanislavski Theatre company in Moscow over the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he told AFP on Sunday (Feb 27).

"I resigned yesterday," he said, after the Kremlin launched an all-out assault on its pro-Western neighbour on Thursday.

"I am leaving Moscow tomorrow in view of the situation.

"I am departing with a heavy heart, but the context no longer allows me to work with peace of mind."

Hilaire, 59, was named director of dance at the Stanislavski Academic Musical Theatre five years ago, becoming only the second Frenchman to direct a ballet company in Russia in some 150 years.

He followed in the footsteps of Marius Petipa, a legendary ballet master and choreographer who directed the Saint Petersburg Imperial Ballet in the 19th century.

Hilaire has been celebrated as one of the most brilliant dancers of his generation, and was "etoile" or principal dancer of the Paris Opera Ballet for more than two decades before heading to Moscow.

He was just 22 when, in 1985, Rudolf Nureyev, a Siberia-born ballet dancer and choreographer who had defected from the Soviet Union, gave him the highest rank possible within a professional dance company.

Get live updates as the Ukraine crisis unfolds.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.