Russia's war on Ukraine impacts the world's tightknit ballet community

For decades now, Russians have known the drill. When there's bad news brewing, such as the death of a leader, or a convulsive event, such as the Chernobyl disaster, State TV

switches its programming and begins airing Tchaikovsky's ballet, "Swan Lake." Nothing to see her folks. But also note the choice of distraction. Ballet is centrally important to

Russian society and to Russian image. Dancers slicing through the air and challenging laws of physics and gravity represent civility and grace. But, last February, when Russian

military troops invaded Ukraine, Russian ballet troupes had their western tours cancelled and Moscow's Bolshoi theater has shuttered shows by directors critical of Putin's war. As

we first reported last year, this brutal war plays out on the most delicate of fronts, leaving ballet in exile.  When ballet dancers are described as God's athletes, well,

you could offer up Olga  Smirnova as supporting evidence. She treads on air, coming in on little cat feet. She's a Russian prima ballerina—one of the world's leading

dancers. But days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Smirnova pirouetted and stepped off her stage at the renowned Bolshoi Theater, with dramatic flourish. She took to social media to

express her outrage. And then fled the country, the modern-day version of Nureyev or Baryshnikov defecting. Jon Wertheim: When you sat down to write that social media post,

what did you want to communicate? What did you want to say? Olga Smirnova: I just couldn't keep it inside. I was so ashamed of Russia. This is the true. I'm not ashamed that

I'm Russian, but I'm ashamed because of Russia started this action.