Bolshoi ballet defector Alexander Godunov yesterday said that he has resigned from the embattled American Ballet Theatre. He had never publicly performed with the company. According to his manager, Godunov asked to be released from his contract because he believed "his withdrawal from the company will make it easier for the management of ABT and its dancers to come to an agreement in their current contract difficulties."

Late last night, however, sources close to Godunov and sources at ABT agreed the resignation was a temporary move in response to management's claim that it could not meet the dancers' financial demands. Sources on both sides said Godunov will return to the company after the labor dispute is settled.

Lucia Chase -- ABT's cofounder and outgoing artistic director -- said in a prepared statement, "We look forward to his return as soon as possible."

Sources close to Godunov say the dancer and ABT have been embarassed by speculation on his salary. Godunov's manager said reports that the dancer's compensation for the season would exceed $130,000 were exaggerated. The dancers had used the reports as an argument that ABT could afford to pay them more if it paid its stars less.

In a prepared statement, Godunov said "My sympathy is with both sides" in the ABT lockout.

Ballet world sources said last night that Godunov's obligation to ABT had already been voided by a labor-strife clause in his contract. Others felt his resignation was academic because of ABT's shutdown.

Although the Bolshoi defector is believed to have agreed to various guest engagements with regional American ballet companies -- dancing in pas de deux -- those engagements are expected to be canceled because he allegedly wishes to make his post-defection debut in a full-length ballet.

Frank Smith, the dancers' spokesman, responding to the announcement of Godunov's resignation, said, "We have not made Godunov an issue in the negotiations. If we had chosen to dance elsewhere we would still have been locked into our struggle with management to achieve a just and living wage. We salute Mr. Godunov's noble attempt to contribute to a more harmonious atmosphere in these negotiations . . . but we would like him to reconsider and remain a welcome member of our company."