Dance Matters: The Aftermath of the Bolshoi Acid Attack

When Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin was verbally threatened by a disgruntled dancer last December, he had no way of foreseeing the nightmare that would follow. His email was hacked, his tires slashed, and on January 17 his face was doused with sulfuric acid, leaving him writhing in pain just outside his home. Shock rippled through the Bolshoi, Moscow, and the international ballet world.

 

At left: Filin and Galina Stepanenko, currently interim director, in Swan Lake. Photo from the Bolshoi archives, Courtesy Bolshoi.

 

Rumors flew. General director Anatoly Iksanov accused principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who had long been an outspoken critic of the Bolshoi’s leadership, of fomenting an atmosphere that made this brutal act possible. Tsiskaridze countered, bizarrely, by claiming that he himself was a victim of a witch hunt—and eventually suing the theater.

 

On March 5 the Moscow police arrested leading soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29. He confessed to hiring an ex-convict to carry out an attack on Filin—although he claims he only asked the man to “knock him around.” What was Dmitrichenko’s complaint? He demanded that both he and his girlfriend, the promising Anzhelina Vorontsova, be given top roles that were deemed by Filin outside their abilities. The answer was no. He also accused the Bolshoi of corruption in the system of granting money to dancers.

 

Some at the Bolshoi, including Iksanov and Filin, feel sure that Dmitrichenko did not act alone. Many Bolshoi performers signed an open letter to President Putin to demand a reinvestigation. “Deep down,” says Larissa Saveliev, former Bolshoi dancer and founder/director of Youth America Grand Prix, “the dancers don’t believe that one of them could have done it.”

 

Meanwhile, a committee has been formed, Soviet-style, to assist in making artistic decisions.

 

As for Filin’s condition, he may have permanent blindness in one eye, and the other is regaining limited vision after many operations. While in Germany recovering, he’s been on the phone daily with Galina Stepanenko, the recently retired principal who stepped in as interim director—making her the Bolshoi’s first female leader. Filin hopes to join the company when they tour to London in July.

Breaking Stereotypes
Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Courtesy Martell.

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Taylor Stanley in Apollo. Photo by Erin Baiano, Courtesy New York City Ballet

You nominated your favorite dance moments so far in 2019, and we narrowed them down to this list. Now it's time to cast your vote to help decide who will be deemed our Readers' Choice picks for the year!

Voting is open until September 17th. Only one vote per person will be counted.

Keep reading... Show less
The USC Kaufman graduating class with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Gus Ruelas/USC

Just four years ago, the University of Southern California's Glorya Kaufman School of Dance welcomed its first class of BFA students. The program—which boasts world-class faculty and a revolutionary approach to training focused on collaboration and hybridity—immediately established itself as one of the country's most prestigious and most innovative.

Now, the first graduating class is entering the dance field. Here, six of the 33 graduates share what they're doing post-grad, what made their experience at USC Kaufman so meaningful and how it prepared them for their next steps:

Keep reading... Show less
News
Teaċ Daṁsa in Michael Keegan-Dolan's Loch na hEala. Photo by Marie-Laure Briane, courtesy Walker Art Center

The 2019–20 season is here, and with it more performances than any one person could reasonably catch. But fear not: We polled our writers and editors and selected the 31 most promising tickets, adding up to one endlessly intriguing year of dance.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox