Insiders have claimed that the production’s portrayal of the dancer’s sexuality may have been behind the move.

In a move that has shocked the arts world, the Bolshoi Theatre has indefinitely postponed the anticipated world premiere of Nureyev, a biographical ballet of the famous Russian dancer. No official reason has been provided for the sudden cancellation, but there are rumours alleging that the production’s exploration of Nureyev’s sexuality may have been behind the move.

International critics and theatre directors had been invited to Tuesday’s premiere, but it was decided on Saturday that all performances of Nureyev would be replaced with Don Quixote, a staple of the company’s repertoire. The Bolshoi’s spokesman, Katerina Novikova, declined to comment on the last minute cancellation, with another spokesman saying the production would appear “no earlier” than the 2018/2019 season, with the upcoming season already planned. The theatre has said it will hold a press conference explaining the decision.

A number of competing accounts have been put forth – sources inside the theatre have reported that the portrayal of homosexuality was the deciding factor, while a video of the Bolshoi’s general director, Vladimir Urin, shows him informing the troupe that the premiere was called off because it was “not ready”. However, a number of artists within the company have disputed his claims, with footage uploaded to Facebook demonstrating sustained applause at Friday’s dress rehearsal.

Prominent Russian dance critic Tatiana Kuznetsova wrote in the Kommersant newspaper that Nureyev had been “the main event of the ballet season in Russia, and possibly in the world”. She added that there were rumours the ballet depicted living public personalities and male dancers in dresses.

The director of Nureyev, Kirill Serebrennikov, is known for provocative stagings that run counter to the conservatism of the Kremlin and culture ministry. Serebrennikov has become increasingly critical of government censorship in the arts in recent years, and was recently detained and question by Russian security services as a witness over the alleged embezzlement of government funding. Many in the arts world believed his treatment was politically motivated. While Serebrennikov has also declined to comment on the situation, he has made it clear that the decision was made by the Bolshoi.