Bolshoi Ballet branded brothel

The Bolshoi Ballet is a "giant brothel" that pimped out dancers to wealthy benefactors, a former star says.

Former Bolshoi soloist Anastasia Volochkova, who was controversially sacked by the company in 2003 for being fat, made the claims against the Moscow-based ballet company in a Russian television talk show and repeated them in a radio interview.

"It mainly happened with the corps du ballet but also with the soloists. Unfortunately, the Bolshoi general director has turned the Bolshoi theatre into a giant brothel," Volochkova, 37, said. "Ten years ago when I was dancing at the theatre, I repeatedly received such propositions to share the beds of oligarchs." She said girls were forced to go to grand dinners and warned that afterwards they would be expected to have sex.

"When the girls asked: 'What happens if we refuse?', they were told that they would not go on tour or even perform at the Bolshoi theatre."

Bolshoi theatre general director Anatoly Iksanov said Volochkova's allegations were "dirt and ravings".

Top Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko is facing trial for ordering an acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin. Theatre staff say he had been pressured into confessing.

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