Bolshoi ballet was 'giant brothel' claims former dancer

image captionVolochkova was controversially fired from the Bolshoi in 2003

The Bolshoi Ballet has been mired in further controversy after a former soloist claimed female dancers were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons.

Anastasia Volochkova accused the theatre's general director of turning the company "into a giant brothel".

Outspoken Volochkova, who has dabbled in TV talent and talk shows, was fired from the Bolshoi in 2003 for being too heavy.

General director Anatoly Iksanov dismissed the claims as "ravings".

Volochkova made the allegations during an interview on a television talk show in Russia on Sunday, later repeating them in a radio interview with Russian News Service.

"It mainly happened with the corps du ballet but also with the soloists," she said.

'Dirt and ravings'

"Ten years ago, when I was dancing at the theatre, I repeatedly received such propositions to share the beds of oligarchs.

"The girls were forced to go along to grand dinners and given advance warning that afterwards they would be expected to go to bed and have sex," she alleged.

"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. Can you imagine?"

The allegations were put to Iksanov during a news conference at the theatre on Tuesday, to which he responded: "I don't comment on dirt and ravings."

image captionDmitrichenko has admitted to discussing an attack on Sergei Filin, but denies ordering the use of acid

It is the latest in a series of controversial events surrounding the world famous Russian theatre, which has become notorious for infighting and rivalry.

One of its top dancers, Pavel Dmitrichenko, is facing trial for allegedly ordering an acid attack on the ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin in January.

Filin's eyesight was damaged and he received severe burns to his face when sulphuric acid was thrown in his face outside his home in central Moscow.

More than 300 staff at the theatre last week signed an open letter to President Vladimir Putin saying that they believed Dmitrichenko was not capable of ordering such a crime and suggesting he had been pressured into making a confession.

Volochkova was fired from the Bolshoi in 2003 with Iksanov saying she was too tall and heavy for male partners to lift.

She eventually won a legal claim against the ballet theatre, although her career never really recovered.

She has since dabbled in opposition politics and appeared on TV talent shows, while her private life has frequently appeared in the pages of Russian gossip magazines.

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