Shock at the Bolshoi

January 17, 2013

Dance people around the world are horrified by yesterday’s acid attack on Sergei Filin. I don’t know why this happened but I do know that Sergei Filin is a man of integrity, taste, wit, and dedication. You can see all these things from my interview with him in our January issue.


Sergei Filin at his Bolshoi office in Moscow in May 2012. Photo by Wendy Perron.


The ballet world is intense, and there are people who feel their life depends on getting the right role or position. Is it possible that one of these people, or one of their supporters, got carried away with the urge for revenge?

Of course we don’t know at this point. But I want to say that Sergei Filin is a pretty moderate guy. He’s steeped in Bolshoi history, wanting to bring the company back to its former glory at the same time as moving forward. In the repertoire, he has balanced a reverence for Yuri Grigorovich with invitations to new choreographers like Jorma Elo and Edwaard Liang. Wayne McGregor will be choreographing a new Rite of Spring there. Filin brought in David Hallberg as a principal dancer, making international headlines—but that didn’t endear him to the contingent in Moscow that thinks Russians are the best dancers in the world.

David Hallberg, who graced our May cover, said on his Facebook page: “The attack against Sergey Filin is a reprehensible strike at an artist who is leading a generation of dancers in a visionary way. This violence has no place in the artistic community or anywhere else, and I wish him the healthiest recovery so he can continue his exemplary leadership at Bolshoi Ballet.”

And in an article at The Guardian, Svetlana Zakhaova, the reigning Bolshoi star, says Filin has revived the Bolshoi.


Filin has brought in choreographers like Edwaard Liang, here rehearsing Svetlana Zakharova in his
Distant Cries, to work with the company. Photo by Vladimir Lupovskoy.


Americans feel closer to the Bolshoi now because of all the “Ballet in Cinema” showings during the last two years. And of course the fact that Hallberg has been dancing there bridges the gap too.

Sergei Filin wisely remembered his own rebelliousness when he said, “I don’t know the dancers who are happy with their artistic director.” He wasn’t expecting automatic love from his dancers. He had a job to do and he was doing it well. But there was certainly a show of love among the dancers last night, when some of them spent many hours at the hospital in Moscow after hearing of the horrendous attack.


Filin in Balanchine’s
Pas de Deux when he was a star at the Bolshoi. Photo by Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Bolshoi, © Balanchine Trust.