By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
Why one of Russia’s most beloved institutions is so cutthroat
The world was shocked earlier this month when a masked assailant threw acid in the face of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, requiring him to have operations to save his eyesight. But it was just one of many scandals at Russia’s most beloved arts institution. In the past two years, Filin has had his tires slashed by what he claimed were his artistic enemies at the company; a deputy director was forced to resign after photos of him in bed with a man were circulated online, reportedly by a rival; there were allegations of trading sex for promotions; one ballerina who sued the company told the Daily Beast, “Men with knives threatened to kill my ballet partners.” Another Bolshoi dancer fled to Canada this week after being threatened over her husband’s business.
For North Americans, the whole thing seems mystifying. Here, the world of classical ballet and dance is a low-stakes world. But Russians “take a special pride in the world of ballet and opera,” says Valery Gergiev, the celebrated conductor of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. “There are many national heroes and national treasures.” That’s the good side of a world where culture is taken seriously enough to have actual scandals.