Moscow court battle lays bare Bolshoi strife
MOSCOW - Agence France-Presse
Bejart Ballet dancers perform at Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" in the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, on April 3, 2013. AFP photo
A Moscow court Friday partially backed a star dancer in his dispute with the Bolshoi Theatre that laid bare bitter internal divisions at the ballet company after the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin.
Nikolai Tsiskaridze, 39, a flamboyant top-ranking dancer at the theatre, was penalised by the Bolshoi after he criticised general director Anatoly Iksanov and other managers, called for them to be sacked and for him to run the theatre himself.
The court ruled to cancel one reprimand issued by the Bolshoi but upheld a second one, leaving Tsiskaridze unable to disguise his disappointment in characteristically theatrical style.
"I can't see any difference between the reprimands. This baiting of an artist has been going on for more than a year," Tsiskaridze told journalists after the ruling, saying he intended to appeal.
The Bolshoi said it might also appeal the decision.
Two official reprimands were enough grounds for the Bolshoi to sack Tsiskaridze, although it had not taken steps to do so.
Judge Yevgeny Komissarov ruled that one reprimand should be lifted for a phone interview to the Moskovsky Komsomolets popular daily where Tsiskaridze insisted that he was not involved in the acid attack. This was a partial victory for Tsiskaridze, who had queried the theatre's rule that dancers should not give interviews without going through its press service.
But the judge upheld a reprimand for interviews with the BBC Russian service and Sovershenno Sekretno (Top Secret) television where he called for the management to be sacked, questioned whether Filin actually was in an acid attack, and criticised acting artistic director Galina Stepanenko.
"It is a shame that I am among the famous names who created the glory of the Bolshoi Theatre and who have been oppressed," the premier dancer known for roles such as the "Evil Genius" in "Swan Lake" said in a speech in court.
The dancer appeared in Moscow's Tverskoi district court wearing a black polo neck, scarf and trousers with his black hair swept back. He is a household name in Russia due to frequent television appearances as a judge on celebrity shows.
"I am the Bolshoi," he said at one point, when accused of insulting the theatre where he has danced since 1992.
The Bolshoi had refused to settle out of court by cancelling the reprimands issued to Tsiskaridze, ensuring a further airing of the dirty laundry of the famous theatre, which is trying to live down one of the worst scandals in its 237-year history.
Filin had sulphuric acid flung in his face in January outside his Moscow apartment, causing eye and skin damage. He is undergoing treatment in Germany and doctors say they hope to restore enough vision in both his eyes for him to dance again.
A top dancer at the theatre, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has been charged along with two accomplices after confessing to organising an attack on Filin, although he said he only asked them to beat him up. The case has not yet gone to trial.
Tsiskaridze and the Bolshoi theatre's general director Anatoly Iksanov have fought a media war, with Iksanov saying that Tsiskaridze carried moral responsibility for creating a poisonous atmosphere that made the attack on Filin possible.
"Don't you consider that Iksanov insulted me? For a general director to talk about artists is the worst thing that can happen," Tsiskaridze retorted in court.