Helene

Sergei Filin Attacked

653 posts in this topic

It wasn't a public petition like when a full-page newspaper ad in the New York Times advocating the release of a political prisoner and signed by Nobel laureates is published. It was an under-handed coup attempt when, as a man with a TV pulpit and who's the go-to guy for a pithy quote, his attempts at persuasion failed, and he obtained signatures by misrepresenting the situation to fellow artists. It was never meant to go public: it was leaked to the press.

Lawlessness breeds lawlessness, and step one is to try to establish illegitimacy. That he's been agitating relentlessly within the company is no secret. It's no surprise that, while the translation of Tsiskaridze's literal words were that if Iksanov were Orthodox, he'd understand Tsiskaridze's relationship to Yanin, does anyone really think he wasn't also saying "He's not one of us"? He's the self-proclaimed "preserver of ballet orthodoxy," which is funny when you think about it, with the Bolshoi rep having works like "Spartacus" and "Carmen" so affiliated with the company. You'd think from his words that he was chaneling Petipa, not Grigorovich.

In a blog post ranting against "the tyrant" Iksanov and the Bolshoi renovation, Anastasia Volochkova also made an issue of the fact that Iksanov's birth name was not Anatoly, son of Gennady, but rather Tahir, son of Gadelzyan.

http://volochkova-a.....com/75111.html

Of course this can be taken to mean that "he's not one of us." Or perhaps, "The man is fundamentally dishonest. He even lies about his name."

Long ago I remember reading an interview with Helena Bonham Carter in which she described overhearing a group of people at a party trashing her. Apparently the final nail in her coffin was: "And her hair isn't even real!" If someone is determined to dislike or hate you, just about anything, even the wigs you wore in period movies, can be used as a cudgel against you.

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No one put those words in either of Tsiskaridze's or Volochkova's mouths. Because using a specific code isn't unique doesn't make it honorable. I don't hate Tsiskaridze, but from what he actively presents publicly, I've always thought of him clownish, and I don't find his opinions credible on their own or respect his approach; his statement just reinforces this. If someone I actively admired made the same comment, I would stop admiring them, although what I'd think of their dancing and what I think of his dancing itself doesn't change. I think he's a fine dancer, although not as fine as he thinks he is.

That doesn't mean I think he was behind the attack on Filin; in fact, I was hoping they'd eliminate him as a suspect early to focus on who actually did it. It does mean that I understand how environments can be poisoned. The Bolshoi makes NYCB around the Balanchine succession look like Sesame Street.

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I certainly never meant to suggest that you hated Tsiskaridze, Helene! Rather, I'm guessing that Tsiskaridze and Volochkova hate Iksanov so much (and vice versa) that they would find suitable glop with which to smear him even if he were descended from the Riurikids and had several Patriarchs of Moscow and All Russia hanging on his family tree.

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I would like to say that since they have nothing more than this with which to attack Iksanov , they've stooped to this, but I'm sure they understand the power of what their similar statements convey, much more powerful than sounding wonkish with reason X or reason Y.

I'm sorry for misunderstanding, volcanohunter.

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I think this just comes down to professional conduct. I am forgiving of a 21 year old athlete or dancer who makes incendiary comments. But a 39 year old dancer who has considerable on-camera experience is expected to measure his words, use diplomacy, act above board and know better than to defame his managers.

The man was dishonest when he organized a failed backdoor coup of Mr. Iksanov. He made defamatory insinuations that Mr. Filin was having "love life" problems. He is entirely lacking in professional conduct. I have no confidence that he could manage a small village dance school. I cannot imagine what he would be like as the dictator of the Bolshoi, which is clearly his greatest wish.

President Putin, of course, must relish all the sturm and drang. It distracts the Russian populace from the appalling government corruption. Have you read the reports that the Sochi Olympic site construction will cost more than the Beijing Summer Games construction?

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I completely agree with Mashinka that the Bolshoi doesn't need a Gergiev. But, based solely on how he conducts himself in a crisis, I'm afraid I don't think they need a Tsiskaridze either. (And when I saw him in the Shades scene in Bayadere many years ago, I did find him quite a remarkably exciting and beautiful dancer.)

For the rest: the Bolshoi in recent years (under Burlaka and under Filin) has seemed to me one of the 2-3 greatest ballet companies in the world. (I base this primarily on what I saw in London right before Burlaka resigned, but also on reports, reviews, film and videos since then.) Their artistic direction has obviously been doing a lot of things right. And Filin surely has to get the credit for bringing Obratzova and Smirnova into the Bolshoi equation as well.

The horrific theater politics-well, one hopes that could one day somehow change, but surely Tsiskaridze does not appear to be the man to do that...Beyond the politics, the sheer lawlessness and violence Michael talks about (the acid-in-the-face that goes well beyond even horrific politics)--well, that can't be solved inside the theater, but must be taken up by powers outside it.

In fact, I keep hoping Putin decides this is enough of an embarrassment it has to be cleaned up. But I'm not very (or at all) optimistic.

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Putting aside my own feelings for Tsiskaridze; and I’ll admit I’ve been a fan since his first teenage appearances in London, I get a very uncomfortable feeling when the whole pack seems to be coming down on one man.

Who attacked Sergei Filin? Why, Nikolai Tsiskaridze of course, it stands to reason that he’s the guilty party because he has dared to criticize the Bolshoi management – or so the argument goes. And think of all the wicked things he has done in the past………….

Crime no.1: He has been loyal to his aging mentor Yuri Grigorovich, and lobbied to get him back working in the theatre.

Crime No.2: He refused to tell a lie regarding Anastasia Volochkova, he could lift her with ease, so why should he claim otherwise?

Crime No.3: He championed those older ballerinas such as Gracheva and Stepanenko when they were being sidelined and their roles given to current management favourites.

Crime No.4: He kicked up a stink when it appeared his beloved teacher, Marina Semenova, was to be denied a funeral befitting her status, thanks to Tsiskaridze she got one.

Crime No.5: He was vociferous in his criticism of the Bolshoi restoration complaining about tremendous costs for shoddy results (to be fair his wasn’t the only voice, just the loudest).

Crime No.6: He complained about the Bolshoi director also being head of the dancers’ trade union. Unhappy about the director? don’t worry, speak to your union rep – Doh!

I could go on, but on those six offences it is definitely - Guilty as Charged.

Personally I wouldn’t regard it as a crime to aspire to be either Bolshoi Director or General Director, neither is it a crime to speak before you think, though it is unwise. It seems to me Mr Iksanov is using the present unhappy circumstances to remove a thorn in his side, but to say that Tsiskaridze’s pronouncements created the atmosphere that led to the attack on Filin is absurd and Iksanov knows that. I am no nearer to knowing the reasons behind the acid attack than anyone else though I’ve heard an interesting and credible theory, but in a company of 200 dancers where inevitably there are fathers/husbands/boyfriends/’protectors’ with mafia links and deep pockets the pressures on a director to be his own man with regard to entry into the company, promotions and distribution of roles must be immense. I still think deep down that these people are the real enemies of Sergei Filin just as they are the enemies of the art of ballet in Russia.

A final thought about Iksanov’s name change: Rudolf Nureyev, Irek Mukhamedov, Farouk Ruzimatov, Makhar Vaziev et al have all found that Islamic sounding names haven’t held them back in the arts world, so yes, the Iksanov example is rather curious.

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Another Muslim name: Altynai Abdyahimovna Asylmuratova. However I will say that in this summer Olympics there was a very talented gymnast named Aliya Mustafina. She is also of Tatar/Muslim origin. I read ugly, ugly comments about her deriding her Muslim heritage, both inside and outside Russia. Just ugly, ugly stuff, including the accusation that she'd never be a truly "Soviet" gymnast because of her heritage.

I don't know if similar prejudices are present in dance, but if they are, I can understand the name changes.

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There aren't many "Soviet" performers of any stripe at this time, and certainly not Soviet female gymnasts. The longing for such makes a good target audience for such comments.

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Quote:

“...the accusation that she'd never be a truly "Soviet" gymnast because of her heritage.”

Unfortunately, there are so many “writers” now writing the “ugly stuff”, which is not just ugly but also completely untrue. I don’t know what the ‘Soviet’ gymnast meant in this context but I know well that in the Soviet times ‘Spartakiada’ Games were held every 4 years, in the year before the Olympics, where all republics were competing. They were similar to Commonwealth Games. It is impossible to list all champions of Muslim heritage whom the country was proud of and who were awarded with many high prizes and decorations. Here are some Olympic champions: Uzbek gymnast Elvira Saadi; Uzbek boxers Muchammadkadyr Abdullaev, Abbos Atoev, Rufat Riskiev; Kazakh boxer Serik Sapiev; Tartar artistic gymnast Alina Kabayeva… I can run out of space listing others. Each republic had famous academicians, writers, actors, film and theatre directors, etc. The ballet list given by Mashinka can be continued: Malika Sabirova, the best Bolshoi’s character dancer Shamil Yagudin, etc. Special groups for ethnic minorities were created in best educational establishments, including Vaganova Ballet Academy. I wouldn’t have drifted so far away from the topic of our discussion but felt that it is necessary to show what if was like in reality.

Some most famous people of Muslim heritage became known beyond the Soviet borders: writer Chingyz Aitmatov, singer Muslim Magomaev, poet Bella Akhmadulina. Like many others they haven’t changed their Muslim names.

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It wasn't a public petition like when a full-page newspaper ad in the New York Times advocating the release of a political prisoner and signed by Nobel laureates is published. It was an under-handed coup attempt when, as a man with a TV pulpit and who's the go-to guy for a pithy quote, his attempts at persuasion failed, and he obtained signatures by misrepresenting the situation to fellow artists. It was never meant to go public: it was leaked to the press.

Lawlessness breeds lawlessness, and step one is to try to establish illegitimacy. That he's been agitating relentlessly within the company is no secret. It's no surprise that, while the translation of Tsiskaridze's literal words were that if Iksanov were Orthodox, he'd understand Tsiskaridze's relationship to Yanin, does anyone really think he wasn't also saying "He's not one of us"? He's the self-proclaimed "preserver of ballet orthodoxy," which is funny when you think about it, with the Bolshoi rep having works like "Spartacus" and "Carmen" so affiliated with the company. You'd think from his words that he was chaneling Petipa, not Grigorovich.

Again, I don't condone NT's alleged misconduct, such as his improper petition (see above), which Helen outlines (see above), but that does not make his separate, proper objections and refusal to lie about colleagues wrongful, or render them the cause of the general lawless behavior described in the theatre (involving many people, described above), nor does it give rise to evidence of his own guilt in a physical attack. All expression of disagreement or refusal to go along with abuse does not make one a contributor to "incivility" leading to violence.

RT states:

"In response three days later Nikolay Tsiskaridze appeared on the BBC with his share of accusations, accusing the Bolshoi leadership of being totalitarian. 'It's like 1937, the days of Stalin – they're constantly organizing meetings against me, they're trying to force staff to sign letters condemning me.'

Anastasia Volochkova, who was Bolshoi prima ballerina until she was sensationally sacked in 2003, took Tsiskaridze’s side. 'You absolutely cannot call it an artistic conflict, when a leadership of a theater organizes the collecting of signatures against artists, who suddenly became unwanted. That’s what Iksanov is now doing to Nikolay Tziskaridze, who has turned into an obstacle. Ten years ago Iksanov was scheming the same way against me,' Volochkova wrote in her blog on January 22."

Writers above suggest that ballet dancers should be mute, not just for political reasons (which admittedly may benefit them), but to avoid generating an atmosphere of "lawlessness". Does the theatre have a mechanism to deal with problems? If it does not, would you be able to mute if ethnic groups, political groups, or artistic dissenters were disallowed or marginalized? If ones who did not submit to sexual harrassment were forced out or defamed? If you were attacked or blacklisted for supporting the victims? I am sure many find the safest route to keep their heads down and say nothing, but consequences arise from this, as well.

In sum, I am asking if he had not lied to obtain petitions, and had not objected to Iksanov for ethnic reasons, would you consider his public commentary about the reconstruction, his refusal to criticize and blacklist disfavored dancers and teachers, or his objection to signings letters directed against them, to be improper or a cause of lawlessness, giving rise to hacking and acid attacks? Would your answer be different based on the culture in the U.S. and the former Soviet Union?

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It all gets in the way of finding who actually paid for the acid attack.

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Well I guess this is reflective of an element in Russian ballet (and maybe society at large) where no attack is considered below the belt or simply unacceptable to voice publicly.

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I don't think that artists should be mute. I have no problem with an artist criticizing theater management. There's certainly nothing wrong with supporting colleagues and refusing to act against them. Peter Boal received both external and internal criticism when he refused to renew Ariana Lallone's contract, when she'd been dancing beautifully and planned to retire the following season. (Unlike at the Bolshoi, he didn't have to pay her after not casting her.) Helgi Tomasson has gotten his share of criticism over the years at San Francisco Ballet, and Peter Martins might just as well as have a target printed on his front and back.

As far as criticism of the reconstruction of the theater, unless he has proof that Iksanov personally was responsible for substandard work, his constant carping, and the underlying mantra that such things wouldn't have happened in the past, and the current administration is undermining the glorious past, as if Brezhnev was still in charge, just shows what he's made of. The building had serious infrastructure problems that had to be addressed, and like in many major infrastructure overhauls, once the patient is opened, they found much more structural damage than they had estimated: the foundation of the building was compromised. If his sense of business and projects is so naive that he thinks that when scope is changed radically, the completion date can be moved only so far, and there is a limit to money, that every detail will be as originally hoped and planned, he has no business running a candy shop, let alone a major theater.

Where is his criticism of where the real power lay in the project: high in the government, with contractors who were connected every which way from Thursday, or the people who realized that the project wouldn't be giving unlimited funding, etc. That wouldn't help him with his ultimate goal, though.

When an artist questions the legitimacy of management and actively attempts to undermine it, it's a step towards an environment where management can be treated as illegitimate In the US, the Birther movement questioned the legitimacy of the Obama presidency, and that was one of the things that has lead to voiced threats against him and the government over gun control. Attempting to exploit a chaotic situation, especially in times of economic difficulty and volatility -- Weimar Germany comes to mind -- and attempting to distract whoever is in charge in order to take over is a classic response, and, luckily, he was caught and exposed. Not exactly stellar recommendations for a position that must be led from strength, or, as Mashinka put it, "there are fathers/husbands/boyfriends/’protectors’ with mafia links and deep pockets the pressures on a director to be his own man with regard to entry into the company, promotions and distribution of roles must be immense."

As far as there being much-admired athletes and artists of Muslim descent in Russia, Iksanov is neither artist nor entertainer. Plenty of people in the US admire LeBron James and Seal, but Cornel West is still stopped by the police on the NJ Turnpike when he drives to his Princeton teaching position.

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Another Muslim name: Altynai Abdyahimovna Asylmuratova. However I will say that in this summer Olympics there was a very talented gymnast named Aliya Mustafina. She is also of Tatar/Muslim origin. I read ugly, ugly comments about her deriding her Muslim heritage, both inside and outside Russia. Just ugly, ugly stuff, including the accusation that she'd never be a truly "Soviet" gymnast because of her heritage.

I don't know if similar prejudices are present in dance, but if they are, I can understand the name changes.

Really? As someone who's spent a great deal of time in and out of gymnastics, I'm flabbergasted to hear about this. Mustafina was the sensation of 2010 Worlds, absolutely cleaning up. She also won quite a few Olympic medals last summer, and usually such medal success/recognition absolutely precludes discussion of race . I heard no comments ever about the skin color/background of Betty Okino, Dominique Dawes, nor Gabrielle Douglas, to mention the three perhaps most successful black gymnasts in the US, and god knows the US is not noted for civil discourse nor for colorblindness, to say the least. (I think we can leave the idiots' complaints about Douglas' hairstyle where it belongs--in the trash.....)

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But those idiots' complaints about Douglas' hairstyle speak to the same issue and aren't so easy to dismiss. Winning does not preclude discussions of race, ethnicity, or class. While the joke circulated during the London Olympics -- Q: "What do you say when a mixed race woman, a Muslim immigrant, and a ginger walk into a bar?" A: "May I buy you a drink?" -- is heart-warming and hopeful, not everyone is ready to sing "Kumbaya."

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http://rbth.ru/arts/2013/02/14/bolshoi_theatre_prepares_for_rite_of_spring_anniversary_22863.html

I found this interview with Galina Stepanenko interesting, especially the end:

Izvestia: How is the preparation for the premiere of Mats Ek's “Apartment” going?

G.S.: We have been rehearsing for several weeks. The artists of the Bolshoi Theatre have worked with Ek's assistants. His wife, the outstanding ballerina Ana Laguna, came here; and now the choreographer himself has come here. He will spend the next several days watching the performing artists and assessing the work done.

Izvestia: He wasn't scared away.

G.S.: He is a brave man.

And her statement somewhere in the middle:

Izvestia: How are you going to develop your work with the main opponent of the theater management, Nikolai Tsiskaridze?

G.S.: Today Nikolai Tsiskaridze is still on the team. He teaches, rehearses and dances.

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Yes, Helene, but my point was that as Elizabeth Taylor famously said 'nothing deodorizes like success.' Of course there are going to continue to be bigots, racists, and hatemongers--but if you noticed the general public response to the idiot comments it was mostly outright dismissal, not to speak of horselaughs. The massive success and fame of Douglas and Mustafina goes a long way--even with idiots--towards demonstrating the absurdity of blanket racial hatreds; for one thing, they are in the public eye and held up as 'role models' as the phrase used to go, lol. Everyone's never going to be ready to sing 'Kumbaya,' but they can at least be discouraged from singing "Deutschland uber Alles" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

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This article from 2005 also refers to violence with acid. The article, from the NYTimes, is about the Russian choreographer, Dmitri Briantsev, who was murdered in Prague in 2005, probably because of business dealings.

http://www.nytimes.c...nce/15miss.html

Real estate poses dangers for other figures in Moscow's arts world. Mikhail Levitin, artistic director of the Hermitage Theater, a historic building in a picturesque park on prime central Moscow real estate, has complained for years that he is being squeezed out by forces that want to turn the theater into an entertainment complex.

Mr. Levitin told the Russian media recently that he had been threatened with violence and warned that acid would be poured on his wife and that his baby daughter would be harmed if he did not leave his post.

"In our country art is always dangerous," said Ms. Kolesova, the dance critic. "Before the authorities persecuted for creative positions, now criminals persecute for real estate."

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http://rbth.ru/arts/...sary_22863.html

I found this interview with Galina Stepanenko interesting, especially the end:

Izvestia: How is the preparation for the premiere of Mats Ek's “Apartment” going?

G.S.: We have been rehearsing for several weeks. The artists of the Bolshoi Theatre have worked with Ek's assistants. His wife, the outstanding ballerina Ana Laguna, came here; and now the choreographer himself has come here. He will spend the next several days watching the performing artists and assessing the work done.

Izvestia: He wasn't scared away.

G.S.: He is a brave man.

And her statement somewhere in the middle:

Izvestia: How are you going to develop your work with the main opponent of the theater management, Nikolai Tsiskaridze?

G.S.: Today Nikolai Tsiskaridze is still on the team. He teaches, rehearses and dances.

Just read the entrie interview. Liked it. She very diplomatic. She seems to know how to reveal things without being too revealing and she apparently has a mastery at side-stepping the more hot botton questions with relative ease. She appears confident, strong and very assure of herself. Who knows in the long run having a female running the biggest ballet company in the world is just what the Bolshoi needs at this time. Here's to her sucess until Mr. Filin is able to return...and if she is successful...hopfully Mr. Filin will keep her own as an official AAD.

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The Filin-Bolshoi story is one of the main features in this week's TIME magazine (cover title "Scandal Ballet"). It's writen in simpleton (big brush-stroke) terms, mainly focusing on the Tsiskaridze vs Iksanov angle. It's obvious that the author, Simon Shuster, is not a ballet insider.

Positives: Ballet in the news (with a spread of lovely color photos). Negatives: Simplistic analysis, not even mentioning other plausible theories known in the ballet world.

Interesting tidbit that I had not read before: American member of the Bolshoi corps, Joy Womack, is quoted as saying that she was 'welcomed' with glass in the pointe shoes when she joined.

This is the issue with a grayish photo of the back of Pope Benedict on the cover. "Sandal Ballet" title appears on the cover, above the photo of the Pope. Quite confusing.

I have the queazy feeling that some awful sort of 'Black Swan - Russian Style' movie may come out of all of this.

Edited to add link:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2136318,00.html

Not sure if the above gives you the entire article. I have a hard copy of the issue.

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Oh, that's a shame. Do look for it in the newstands, if it's still there.

Here is the exact Joy Womack mention/quote (typing as I look at p. 37 of the hard copy):

Dancers have been known to place pieces of glass in a rival's slippers just before the curtain rises. Joy Womack, an American dancer in the Bolshoi's corps de ballet, says she was once the victim of such sabotage, which left both of her feet covered in blood. "The pressure made her do it," she says of the dancer she believes placed glass in her shoes.

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Oh, that's a shame. Do look for it in the newstands, if it's still there.

Here is the exact Joy Womack mention/quote (typing as I look at p. 37 of the hard copy):

Dancers have been known to place pieces of glass in a rival's slippers just before the curtain rises. Joy Womack, an American dancer in the Bolshoi's corps de ballet, says she was once the victim of such sabotage, which left both of her feet covered in blood. "The pressure made her do it," she says of the dancer she believes placed glass in her shoes.

Oh jeez. That's really horrible.

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