The general director of the beleaguered Bolshoi Ballet has dismissed sensational allegations from a former dancer who suggested female members of the company were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons to keep their place in the troupe.

Former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, who was fired from the theatre group in 2003 for reportedly being overweight, made the claims during an appearance on a Russian Tv talk show on Sunday (17Mar13), and repeated them during an interview with the Russian News Service radio station.

She told the station, "It mainly happened with the corps du ballet (the main body of backing dancers) but also with the soloists. Unfortunately, the Bolshoi general director has turned the Bolshoi theatre into a giant brothel.

"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. 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?"

However, the Bolshoi Theatre's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, has now vehemently denied Volochkova's allegations, dismissing her comments as "nonsense" and "dirt".

Speaking to reporters at a press conference at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on Tuesday (19Mar13), he said of Volochkova's remarks, "The fact that this is nonsense - it is nonsense. I don't comment on dirt and ravings."

The former ballerina's comments are the latest scandal to hit the troubled ballet group following the arrest of dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko on suspicion of masterminding an acid attack on the company's artistic director Sergei Filin in January (13).

Dmitrichenko remains behind bars as the court case continues, while more than 300 members of the ballet last week (ends17Mar13) signed an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin backing their colleague and protesting his innocence.