The Russian service of Radio Liberty has published an extensive article on the myriad problems of the Bolshoi Theater. In addition to the ballet company, it covers the theater's reconstruction and ticket scalpers. I'm not inclined to translate the whole thing because I rather hope that RFE/RL will provide a translation of its own. However, these are the passages dealing with the ballet company.
"The investigator has already indicated a sentence: 8-10 years. But he holds firm and does not intend to give up," said relatives of Pavel Dmitrichenko. Dmitrichenko initially made a confession of organizing the attack on Filin, then repudiated it. On social networks "crowd-funding" to pay for Dmitrichenko’s legal costs has been announced, and at the Bolshoi Theater nearly three hundred people signed a letter in support of him, risking their careers. "All who openly sympathized with Dmitrichenko will be dismissed," said Georgy Geraskin, the former head of the theater’s union, who recently completed his career at the Bolshoi.
Prior to the attack on the artistic director of the ballet Dmitrichenko had managed to establish himself as a defender of artists’ rights, quarreling with Filin because of the latter’s boorish treatment of the company and arbitrary distribution of salaries. Therefore some artists are convinced that "Pavel was framed" and that all possible versions of the attack must be investigated, while others say that "Filin had shortcomings, but this is no way to respond," referring to the acid.
Bolshoi primas versus the "newbies"
Artists do not rush to communicate with the press; after the story with Tsiskaridze’s reprimands, no one is brave enough for an interview.
On condition of anonymity, one of the [female] artists of the ballet said: "Many artists are deprived of roles because they don’t toe the line, for example, many of our prima ballerinas have little to do in the repertoire: Marianna Ryzhkina, Anna Antonicheva, Elena Andrienko, Maria Allash. Maria Alexandrova is also being harassed, but she is standing firm for now. All of this is because the troupe took in a lot of artists from other theaters: the Kremlin Ballet, the Stanislavsky Theater, from the Mariinsky. But if the Mariinsky Theater is one of the best, the other troupes are weaker. Soloists of these theaters come the Bolshoi and immediately occupy leading positions, thereby depriving our prima ballerinas of performances. And believe me, the replacement is not unequivocal..."
Vladislav Moskalev, the husband of ballerina Svetlana Lunkina and former business partner of Vladimir Vinokur, cites the example of Anastasia Vinokur, who was promoted under Sergei Filin:
"Nastya got a job at the Bolshoi Theater with the help of her dad, Vladimir Vinokur. He lobbied for her and told me about it. Nastya has spent 10 years in the corps de ballet. In my presence daddy called Filin twice, in May and June of 2012, and spent a long time persuading him to promote Nastya in rank. Filin complied with this request after Vinokur gave Filin a job at his foundation (the Vladimir Vinokur Foundation - RL) and, of course, paid Filin money. "
"Such artists ought to be in the theater," former ballet dancer Alexey Koryagin said sarcastically. He left the Bolshoi Theater of his own volition at the beginning of the season. "There are parts she can perform better than anyone else. For example, the languid Dacha Dweller, 40-50 years old with large breasts, in the ballet The Bright Stream." She manages marvelously. And so artists appeared as to whose standards there are doubts.
Awards, Filin and Dmitrichenko
On March 21 the newspaper "Izvestia" reported that the Accounts Chamber was auditing the Bolshoi Theater. The paper speculated that inspectors were checking Pavel Dmitrichenko’s accusations about the unfair calculation of salaries at the Bolshoi Theater, as well as allegations that Filin was embezzling a portion of the bonus pool. However, the results of audit, which the Chamber called routine, were not officially reported.
The former head of the trade union of the Bolshoi Theater, soloist Georgy Geraskin, retired six months ago. He described the salary system at the Bolshoi: "The base salary of an artist is very small - no more than 15,000 roubles [$450]. Bonuses come from presidential grants and 'points' for performances. The size of grants ranges from 8 to 24 thousand roubles [$240-720]. But the grants are calculated in such a way that there is an unused fund that each month goes toward awards. Prior to the establishment of grants commission under former artistic director Gennady Yanin the system was a complete mess. Later we managed to establish a grants commission, which included the head of the union, that is, me. On balance order was established, although some inconsistencies remained. Then I retired and left Pavel Dmitrichenko in my place. Filin again began to manipulate, there was even a scandal with Pavel... It’s a good thing I left, or else I would be sitting in jail with Dmitrichenko. I would also be accused of the attack," said Geraskin.
He is not the only one calling for a more thorough investigation of the attack because "Dmitrichenko could not do such a thing." Businessman Vladislav Moskalev, husband of émigré Bolshoi ballerina Svetlana Lunkina, talks about Sergei Filin’s employment at the Vladimir Vinokur Foundation, which involves large sums of money. Moskalev proposes investigating all possibilities of who might have benefited from an attack on the artistic director of the ballet, including the version connected with the fight for the funds of the Vinokur Foundation. At present the Vinokur Foundation and producer Vladislav Moskalev are suing each other.
Trade unionism is not conducive to a career
Georgy Geraskin became head of the independent trade union of the Bolshoi Theater in 2004. His union activities coincided with an absence of invitations to participate in performances: "That’s how it coincided. How can you prove anything?" smiles Geraskin.
At one point there were two trade unions at the Bolshoi. In 2008 Filin began creating an "elite" trade union, which would include only artists of the opera and ballet. He then retired as a dancer and became artistic director of the Stanislavsky Theater. Returning to the Bolshoi as artistic director in 2011, he remained head of the theater’s "parallel" trade union.
The situation was not normal, and Dmitrichenko wanted, first, to make the trade union independent, and second, that there be only one. "We had taken steps to elect Dmitrichenko head of the trade union, and in theory, this procedure was completed when he was already in custody," said Georgy Geraskin.
Promising young dancer Alexey Koryagin resigned from the Bolshoi Theater during his fifth season. According to him, artists were paid "kopecks."
"There is a salary and there is a bonus, constant and variable. The salary is ludicrous: 4-5 thousand roubles [$120-150], depending on category, plus a "permanent" grant, plus a variable grant—money distributed by the management at its own discretion. They may not grant it, and this is absolutely typical. In total I was receiving 30-40 thousand roubles [$900-1,200], having worked four seasons. Kopecks. At the beginning of the fifth season I resigned. Sergei Yuryevich [Filin] offered me a salary increase and more roles. Well, that would have been a few more kopecks. Why should I bother? I happened to learn that our cleaning lady received a New Year's bonus bigger than mine."
But the main reason for his resignation was exhaustion, says Koryagin. "We sometimes gave 30 performances a month. An astronomical number. Filin shouted at rehearsals. He did not like that some people came to rehearsals at less than full strength. Even though, for example, artists had already been dancing from morning to evening all month long, they were tired. Once Filin began to scream: "Do you think you can’t be replaced?" Then Dmitrichenko asked for some politeness, "What is this? Can’t artists be treated like human beings?"
Alexey Koryagin does not hide that he was one of the few who attended Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s class. It was considered an "oppositional" gesture.
[An account of the controversies surrounding the Bolshoi’s reconstruction and programming follows.]
One of the points of criticism raised by artists are the difficult working conditions in the theater.
"Concerning means of rehabilitation and general physical support. The masseurs’ salary is 14,000 [$420]; that's ridiculous. Naturally, all massage therapists work part-time and work additionally in commercial ventures. Properly equipped rooms for fitness classes or post-injury rehabilitation are nowhere to be found, although this issue has been raised repeatedly by employees. The physiotherapy room is equipped with obsolete machines, so there was talk of closing it. In general, artists are creative meat," says former Bolshoi soloist Georgy Geraskin.
"Dead Souls" and socks for 2,000 roubles
"During the revival of Ivan the Terrible there was a murky story with costumes. They began to be sewn, then they suddenly stopped being sewn, the costumes were gone, they had to be rented from the Paris Opera, but they did not all fit. The dress rehearsal was taking place, Grigorovich was sitting there and needing the artists to appear, and some simply could not go out on stage – they couldn’t get into their costumes. Though money had been allocated... Sometimes we got hold of budgets: men's socks – 2,000 roubles [$60], blindfold – 4,000 [$120]... What sort of prices are these? Clearly Russia’s universal problem—corruption—did not pass by the Bolshoi Theater..." says former Bolshoi Theater artist Alexey Koryagin.
"When I worked in the theater there were a couple of ‘dead souls.’ Usually artists who had actually retired, but retained a salary” says Geraskin. “But how much did the curtain for The Golden Cockerel cost!”
[What follows is a section on ticket scalpers and Anastasia Volochkova’s accusations of dancers used as escorts, which Geraskin largely dismisses.]
In response to the question "What is to be done?" Georgy Geraskin answers briefly: "Save the country, and the theater will follow."
Alexey Koryagin says he wrote an open letter to Dmitri Medvedev. There were pickets at the theater demanding the resignation of the leadership, organized by audience members.
As for working artists, a rebellion is not possible at present.
“If they’re going to rebel, then all together, immediately, once and for all. Today that’s not possible, not in the theater and not in the country. There is a cult of leadership, everyone is afraid. Once we were detained at a dress rehearsal. Artists rebelled: let's demand compensation! Eight people set off to see the administration and two arrived. Someone slipped on a string, right in the hallway, someone jumped into a crevice... What can I say?” sums up Alexey Koryagin.