Catherine

Mariinsky Open Letter to Minister of Culture

89 posts in this topic

I wonder why he seems obsessed with the housing issue, when they sound like they are wanting to open up dialogue about so many other things. Sad.

Pavlenko did a brave thing, but at the same time from my personal experience you are often protected by your own daring. Getting the news to pay attention to you when fighting the big people is very hard, but once you do get the press interested in what you have to say it is willing to do a follow up story, and top administrators are always scared of the press digging for more (because beyond your own issues there are many other horrendous things going on that could be uncovered) and anyone with the power to get press attention actually scares them. I stood up against a big boss in a large system and almost everyone who worked with me thought I was crazy, but once the press became interested in my story (I confronted the boss at her very first public speech and the press paid more attention to my issue than her speech) she left me alone because I also attended other public meetings and did not let the issue rest. The press was on my side. She called me by first name and shook my hand every time she saw me after all this. She hated my guts, but she respected me. In these instances it is quite amazing what happens. People you thought were your friends drop you like a hot potato and ONE person (if you are lucky) shows she is a very good and true friend. Being the person to stand up for yourself as well as other employees is a hard thing. People tell lies about you. Your own co-workers spread lies about you, and you are trying to help them. Administration tries to paint you as crazy. As I said, people who were your friends suddenly walk right by you without acknowledging you out of fear of getting in hot water with the big boss. It is an eye opening experience that I hope nobody has to go through, but at the same time you learn so much about human nature, so maybe everyone should experience it. I don't know. It is too painful though. I suspect some dancers are avoiding Pavlenko like the plague despite the fact she is fighting for them all. I hope I am wrong.

I personally had to go to counseling despite being viewed as winning the fight against administration. You become totally paranoid your every step is being watched, and I think the most hurtful part is the friends who suddenly no longer acknowledge you despite whispering in your ear before you became notorious that you are doing the right thing. But in the end they are not true friends. They scatter when the ocean gets choppy.

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Birdsall, that is quite something! I think you were indeed very courageous and strong to go through with that.

-d-

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Birdsall, that is quite something! I think you were indeed very courageous and strong to go through with that.

-d-

Thanks, Diane! I did not mean to toot my own horn at all. I just wanted to give insight into what happens to people. I hope Pavlenko is not going through the same thing, although I suspect she is, since Gergiev already badmouthed her to the press in retaliation. She will have to be very strong, b/c it is a horrible situation to feel like your bosses consider you a trouble maker and because they do, some of your friends scatter. It still upsets me to even think about it, and I hope her experience is better.

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Thanks, Diane! I did not mean to toot my own horn at all. I just wanted to give insight into what happens to people. I hope Pavlenko is not going through the same thing, although I suspect she is, since Gergiev already badmouthed her to the press in retaliation. She will have to be very strong, b/c it is a horrible situation to feel like your bosses consider you a trouble maker and because they do, some of your friends scatter. It still upsets me to even think about it, and I hope her experience is better.

You should email her - seriously! And mention your own experiences with such things. It would be a nice gesture of solidarity. ;)

http://www.daria-pav...shacontact1.htm

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Thanks, Diane! I did not mean to toot my own horn at all. I just wanted to give insight into what happens to people. I hope Pavlenko is not going through the same thing, although I suspect she is, since Gergiev already badmouthed her to the press in retaliation. She will have to be very strong, b/c it is a horrible situation to feel like your bosses consider you a trouble maker and because they do, some of your friends scatter. It still upsets me to even think about it, and I hope her experience is better.

You should email her - seriously! And mention your own experiences with such things. It would be a nice gesture of solidarity. ;)

http://www.daria-pav...shacontact1.htm

Okay, I just did using the link you provided. Not sure if she wants to be contacted by a complete stranger, but when you suggested that, it occurred to me that when I was really down (and yoga helped me a lot) any kind word really helped me during those bad days. So maybe it was a good suggestion you made. I told her she was brave and that it is great she is fighting for her fellow dancers and told her a little about my experience and hoped she would not have the same experience.

Editing to say that I tried both email addresses on her site and both came back undeliverable. Too bad.

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Editing to say that I tried both email addresses on her site and both came back undeliverable. Too bad.

Well that's a shame, but it was good of you to try.

Any public (or semi-public) figure posting their email address online has to be certain of receiving some emails from strangers. ;)

It's a public website. But I can believe that Pavlenko has received more than her share of emails lately! So perhaps the service was turned off for that reason.

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I hope Pavlenko is not going through the same thing, although I suspect she is, since Gergiev already badmouthed her to the press in retaliation. She will have to be very strong, b/c it is a horrible situation to feel like your bosses consider you a trouble maker and because they do, some of your friends scatter. It still upsets me to even think about it, and I hope her experience is better.


I bet my bottom dollar and then some, that she is.

There was more in the press today about the issue. Sadly it's getting worse not better. No reply from the Minister/Ministry of Culture (and the Dec 20 previously-hinted-at-deadline has now passed)

http://www.rosbalt.r...20/1073777.html

and now Gergiev has claimed that the problem is solved.

In fact, 65 out of 299 total dancers voted on the issue of salary (option 1: monthly fixed salary; option2: base salary of $300 plus per-performance pay each month). Of them, 51 of the 65 voted for option 2. The article rightfully points out that 65 votes out of almost 300 is far from a majority and far less than half of the artists ...

Translation of one of the paragraphs:
http://www.rosbalt.r...20/1073777.html

On Dec. 17th in London, [Gergiev] told journalists that the Mariinsky theatre's ballet troupe resolved the internal conflict themselves several days after voting against changes in the administration's politics. "There was no conflict. I met with the representatives of the ballet troupe and asked them to solve it among themselves. They just a few days ago by overwhelming majority voted not to change anything," the director of the theatre said.

If ever there was a game of word twisting, I think this takes the cake.

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Instead of standard operating procedure (such as badmouthing, as you say, and discrediting, or worse, someone addressing a legitimate concern), why not address a problem and make things better for all involved? This really hurts all involved, and causes unnecessary pain. A satisfied workforce would benefit all, including Gergiev. How can he not see this?

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Very sad. I assume the ones who did not vote were too scared to vote. People think their responses (what they voted for) will get back to administration even if that isn't always the case.

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Seems to me these attitudes are a holdover of the old Party days, when artists who played by the rules were awarded all sorts of prizes, lavish apartments, cars, chauffeurs, touring rights, travel permits, and whatever else they might have desired. The people who didn't play by the rules were harassed by the KGB, sent to regional companies, denied travel or touring permits, and generally treated miserably.

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Seems to me these attitudes are a holdover of the old Party days, when artists who played by the rules were awarded all sorts of prizes, lavish apartments, cars, chauffeurs, touring rights, travel permits, and whatever else they might have desired. The people who didn't play by the rules were harassed by the KGB, sent to regional companies, denied travel or touring permits, and generally treated miserably.

I just hope this will not happen to Daria.

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Seems to me these attitudes are a holdover of the old Party days, when artists who played by the rules were awarded all sorts of prizes, lavish apartments, cars, chauffeurs, touring rights, travel permits, and whatever else they might have desired. The people who didn't play by the rules were harassed by the KGB, sent to regional companies, denied travel or touring permits, and generally treated miserably.

"the rules" of party days were ? and now?

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Canbelto - exactly. That mentality is still prevalent even (oddly/ironically/or maybe not surprisingly?) among the newer graduates, the younger generation. In Russia as a whole there is not a culture of speaking up for oneself, standing out of the group, (or of standing up FOR the group), or promoting individualism. How else have the Bolshoi and Mariinsky maintained incredibly unfair working hours well into the 21st century? Because there is no labour union there. There are no labor laws; not like we have in the USA with mandatory breaks, days off, minimum wage, etc etc.

Even the "individualist/entrepreneurial" mentality in business in Russia today is still new -- they're only 20 years into that tradition,whereas we have over 200 years to go on. Those 20 years have seen the smaller new entrepreneurs (to step aside from ballet for a moment, just to demonstrate one example) fighting to keep their offices/businesses open -- one reason is that fighting for oneself has no precedent, legally or otherwise. It's hard to fight for rights when the law doesn't include those rights -- simply bc those laws haven't been fully developed yet.

Russia has been a culture subject to higher authority for 1000 years, from Tsars to Communist leaders (dictators) to Presidents. Top down rule for the largest country in the world. And even today that inbred approach of following and fearing authority is hard to break. Especially in the theatre system where the daily work relies on cooperation. (corps de ballet, anyone?) No one wants to lose what they've worked so hard to achieve, in a system and art form which is at the outset already insanely competitive. Even if they deserve more or are not receiving their due. It's better to not rock the boat... and so they don't. And so the infection at the top festers and grows...

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I just hope this will not happen to Daria.

She is a principal dancer in good standing; back in shape after maternity leave (long long after) and was not included on the Western tours to LA and SF this October. She was available to go, she was not injured, she was not otherwise engaged. And -- they only brought one actual principal dancer on the tour (Kondaurova). So, based on that alone, I think it's safe to say it already has happened to Daria.

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For anyone wondering about what may be happening to Daria Pavlenko as a result of her speaking out against the Gergiev/Fateyev mismanagement, or why dancers in the company are reluctant to speak out about their disgraceful working conditions, please read the following Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Pussy_Riot

These women were actually imprisoned for speaking out against Putin. Russia is a country where it is literally not safe to speak out and oppose authority. There are many allegations made against Putin - one of the wealthiest men in the world with KGB connections - that his wealth comes from various sources, many of which are no doubt mysterious at the very least, and many probably illegal. He is a man who holds the country in a stranglehold of fear. It was he who appointed Gergiev, who in turn appointed Fateyev. Is it any wonder that the company as a whole fears to speak out against Gergiev? Plainly all he cares about is the money in his own pocket. The dancers must all be terrified of reprisals, and, judging from what happened to the women in the article, rightly so. The world's greatest ballet company is a hotbed at the very least of unfair practices, and also of corruption, where money speaks louder than talent, and the dancers are pawns in a corrupt Mariinsky management. They desperately need someone to speak up for them, and Daria Pavlenko is much to be applauded. I wish I could think something good would come out of this open letter, and I hope and pray that it will . At least this is all bringing the scandalous state of affairs at Mariinsky out into the open. My sympathies are so much with those poor dancers, who bring us all so much beauty and pleasure, and who are iniquitously so ill rewarded for it.

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I have avoided contributing to this thread as the political overtones are far too strong a danger for the Mariinsky dancer(s) concerned.

The results of power without responsibility from support from the West in this matter, should be considered, as it undoubtedly makes the Mariinsky management and ultimately President Putin rather more angry than conciliatory when criticised.

President Putin is generally considered to be taking an increasingly hard-line since his return to office which has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent with the arrest of opposition activists and introduction of restrictive legislation.

Why do I mention this, firstly because Valery Abisalovich Gergiev was personally appointed by President Putin as General and Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre and secondly, he is a close friend..

There are financial pressures upon the Artistic Director from within and without the Mariinsky and the new Mariinsky II Theatre opening next Spring which cost 700,000,000 US Dollars has no doubt put pressure on the Mariinsky's finances.

The dancers despite being told the reasons for the changes, rightly feel they are unreasonable.

The company has always been ruled from the topdown and unions in general throughout the world have little power to what they had in the past.

Remember what happened to Vaziev when he tried to assert his artistic and managerial status over Gergiev.

If the contents Catherine posted are correct as published in http://www.rosbalt.ru/piter/2012/12/05/1067662.html?fb_action_ids=383218961767249%2C383204408435371%2C382982808457531&fb_action_types=og.recommends&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map= there are several worrying points made by Maestro Gergiev.

In case you know little about Valery Gergiev see:-

http://www.nytimes.c...wanted=all&_r=0

It seems for the dancers, that what should be a discussion of art, performance and conditions of employment has now become a trial of strength with probably only one winner.

The company is every year taking steps a way from its glorious past and I yearn for a reprise of the 1961 tour which locked me into my love for academic classical ballet.

PS

I would have thought that Gergiev the musician is not so happy to be involved in this imbroglio, but with power comes responsibility and in this case a very personal responsiblity.

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I would have thought that Gergiev the musician is not so happy to be involved in this imbroglio, but with power comes responsibility and in this case a very personal responsiblity.

I totally agree with what you say here. With power comes responsibility, and he should also handle the ballet (which I have read is the true bread and butter of the Mariinsky) like it is a treasure. As a previous opera lover, despite Gergiev's championing Russian opera and the Mariinsky as an opera company, the Mariinsky really is not a true major player in the opera world. Yes, it is in some ways, but overall, it is not in the same league as the Met or Vienna State Opera or Royal Opera Covent Garden, etc. Gergiev is a big name in opera as a conductor and he has brought rarely performed Russian opera to the West somewhat, but it is considered a niche thing, and really, the Mariinsky opera is not considered by the world the way the Mariinsky Ballet is. The Mariinsky Ballet is much more world renowned with a much higher reputation than the opera despite his desire to make the Mariinsky into a huge opera company. I think he must know that, and so he needs to treat the ballet as something special and listen to the dancers. That is my opinion!!!

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What you say is very interesting - thank you. Putin appoints his friend Gergiev and Gergiev appoints his friend Fateyev. Quite a cozy little circle and seemingly impossible to break. Gergiev the musician is still Gergiev the Artistic Director and first and foremost a human being who should be even more aware of his responsibilities towards the creative artists whose welfare he is ultimately responsible for.

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I think also that there will be many growing pains in Russia as it becomes more and more Westernized. This whole ballet issue is part of it, and the administration needs to realize there is a difference between cruel or mean criticism toward administration (which the dancers have not done) and constructive criticism that simply wants the ballet to thrive (as the letter attempted to do). Gergiev AND Putin need to understand that. If the dancers always go along with everything that is happening then artistic standards will fall. Simply the fact that people have reported here that Vaganova graduates are now starting to join other companies instead of wanting to go into the Mariinsky is a real wake up call to everyone (Putin, Gergiev, and Fateyev)!!! I am sure these dancers who signed the letter love the Mariinsky and want it to succeed. They want to be a change within the system, and that is a good thing. I find it incredible that Gergiev views it as a threat.

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The company is every year taking steps a way from its glorious past and I yearn for a reprise of the 1961 tour which locked me into my love for academic classical ballet.

PS

I would have thought that Gergiev the musician is not so happy to be involved in this imbroglio, but with power comes responsibility and in this case a very personal responsiblity.

You are very fortunate to have been able to see this 1961 tour! I have spoken to friends here in the UK who did, but it's not the same!

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I wonder if anyone else on this forum who has access to Russian media would be able to give us any further information on this matter? It would be interesting to hear what the general reaction has been towards Gergiev's refusal to co-operate with Daria Pavlenko. Hopefully eventually some good must come out of this as the more public knowledge there is of it, the better.

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I wonder if anyone else on this forum who has access to Russian media would be able to give us any further information on this matter? It would be interesting to hear what the general reaction has been towards Gergiev's refusal to co-operate with Daria Pavlenko. Hopefully eventually some good must come out of this as the more public knowledge there is of it, the better.

Yes, if anyone has articles (and translations) that we could read about what the Russian press actually thinks about the letter and Gergiev's reaction, please let us know.

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I think also that there will be many growing pains in Russia as it becomes more and more Westernized. This whole ballet issue is part of it, and the administration needs to realize there is a difference between cruel or mean criticism toward administration (which the dancers have not done) and constructive criticism that simply wants the ballet to thrive (as the letter attempted to do). Gergiev AND Putin need to understand that. If the dancers always go along with everything that is happening then artistic standards will fall. Simply the fact that people have reported here that Vaganova graduates are now starting to join other companies instead of wanting to go into the Mariinsky is a real wake up call to everyone (Putin, Gergiev, and Fateyev)!!! I am sure these dancers who signed the letter love the Mariinsky and want it to succeed. They want to be a change within the system, and that is a good thing. I find it incredible that Gergiev views it as a threat.

Totally agree with you Birdsall. I think Gergiev's comments to the press do not reveal his interpretation of this Letter to the Ministry as an act malice from the dancers as much as it reveals his own utter ignorance (pretend? real?) of the actual problem or question on the table. His suggestion that Pavlenko had a personal gripe was incorrect; his suggestion that the dancers' "voted" and solved the issue amongst themselves is also incorrect (First bc it wasnt a majority vote and second bc the vote itself didnt address the issue); and both points missed the facts of the issue.

There's been a greater exodus in the past 3 or so years from the MT and/or with Vaganova graduates choosing other companies: Shapran, Smirnova the biggest examples...and that speaks not only to artistic opportunity but financial compensation. I do not personally believe the Mariinsky lacks the finances but that those funds are appropriated to other people and/or things.

From Tara -

I wonder if anyone else on this forum who has access to Russian media would be able to give us any further information on this matter? It would be interesting to hear what the general reaction has been towards Gergiev's refusal to co-operate with Daria Pavlenko. Hopefully eventually some good must come out of this as the more public knowledge there is of it, the better.

I've posted whatever I see in the Russian news and will continue to do so; apologies only that I do not always have time to translate the entire article as my free time is sorely limited.

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Echoing Tiara's sentiments, would have given anything to see this company live in the 60s. And I support/agree with all of your points here, Leonid. It's with every hesitation that I myself even post this information on the forum. But I am trying to reflect the facts as they develop (in English) for people to draw their own conclusions.

As a side note, the new theatre was opened yesterday for a brief ceremony including Maya Plisetskaya and her husband Rodion Schedrin. Am told the stage is luxuriously large with great wing space on both sides, and the auditorium (at least at that moment) was not very warm or heated. It will be interesting to see how they use this additional venue schedule-wise after its official opening in May 2013. The comments from Gergiev this year have repeatedly alluded to using it as a performance space, in part, for more children's performances, to educate the local children about fine art. There have been rumors of hiring numerous (ie 60+) additional employees to fill the new space, but the question then arises, where does one suddenly obtain those additional --hopefully polished-- performers, since neither the Msk Choreographic nor the Vaganova can provide such numbers...but that is for another thread altogether.

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