Anastasia Volochkova
Russian ballerina Anastasia Volochkova said the Bolshoi Theatre is a "giant brothel" (Reuters

A former solo ballerina in the Bolshoi Ballet has accused the troupe's management of forcing dancers into prostitution to buy favours from wealthy patrons.

Prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, 37, said the theatre, which is embroiled in controversy over an acid attack on its artistic director, has been turned into a "giant brothel" by general director Anatoly Iksanov.

"The girls were forced to go along to grand dinners and given advance warning that afterwards they would be expected to go to bed [with guests] and have sex," Volochkova told Russian News Service.

Volochkova, who was sacked in 2003 under Iksanov's tenure for being "too fat", alleged that female dancers were forced to sleep with Bolshoi's rich patrons or lose their job.

"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," Volochkova said.

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

"It mainly happened with the corps du ballet but also with the soloists. The Bolshoi general director has turned the Bolshoi theatre into a giant brothel."

Iksanov, who took the reins of the theatre in 2000, dismissed the accusations as "dirt and ravings."

The accusations came as the general director fends off leading dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who is openly aiming to take his place.

Iksanov accused Tsiskaridze of inciting tensions in the theatre that led to the acid assault on Sergei Filin.

Russian police have arrested Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko on suspicion of masterminding the attack carried by two other men.