Ballet critic Tatyana Kuznetsova chimes in with an article entitled "Moscow's Foot" in Kommersant,http://kommersant.ru/doc/2331981
Among other things, the article answers the question posted here regarding Gergiev's remark on the quality of ballet education in St Petersburg. It also makes rather obvious conjectures of what Vishneva meant by moral character, namely, the recent and not-so-recent shameless statements made by Tsiskaridze.
My translation of the preamble to the article:
The main news item of the last week was the appointment of Nikolay Tsiskaridze as the acting rector of St Petersburg's Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. Tatyana Kuznetsova writes about the undercurrents of this decision and the reaction to it of the ballet community.
My translation of the text of the article itself:
The change of authorities at the St Petersburg Academy was done in the best Russian traditions, being similar in style to a special forces operation. First, there was an information leak. On Saturday October 27, the news media reported that Nikolay Tsiskaridze was appointed rector of the Academy, citing a source at the Ministry of Culture. Deputy Minister of the Culture Grigory Ivliev immediately refuted this information, saying that, on the contrary, the contract with the current rector of the Academy, Vera Dorofeyeva, had recently been renewed. Minister, Medinsky, put it more ambiguously: "Nikolay Maksimovich [translator's note: "Maksimovich" is Tsiskaridze's patronymic] will not remain without a job." And added: "There exist many rumors." On Monday October 28, the "rumor" turned out to be a fact. Deputy Minister Ivliev now refuted his own self, relating those same news media about the appointment of Tsiskaridze as the rector of the Vaganova Academy. Half an hour later a briefing of Vladimir Medinsky was held within its walls, at which the minister personally introduced Nikolay Tsiskaridze as the acting rector to the faculty and journalists. At the same time, a new artistic director was appointed (according to the bylaws of the Academy, the artistic director that deals with all the creative matters, can only be its graduate): People's Artist of Russia Ulyana Lopatkina replaced People's Artist of Russia Altynai Asylmuratova who had been working since 2000. The prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater agreed to this (over the phone, since she was touring) on the condition that she would continue dancing on the stage of the Mariinsky.
It's curious that, while firing the leaders of Academy, the minister did not voice any complaints against them---on the contrary, he promised to nominate them for government awards. The paradox was explained by Vera Dorofeyeva who, according to her words, found out about her firing an hour before the meeting. At the briefing she openly announced that her departure is the payment for the independence of the Academy. The uncompromising leader was a tough defender of the autonomy of the ballet school from the claims of the Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theater Valery Gergiev. The latter desperately needs additional square footage. The reason is that the gigantic new Mariinsky-2 has only one ballet rehearsal studio and, when the historic building closes for renovation, the company whose size was increased by Gergiev's dictate will simply have no space to rehearse. Whereas it looks like Nikolay Tsiskaridze will not stand up to Maestro Gergiev. On the day of his appointment he said in an interview that theater artists who rehearse inside academies is a an ancient practice (although he forgot to mention that during those ancient times ballet schools had four times as few students as now).
It is not surprising that Valery Gergiev enthusiastically supported that change of the Academy's leadership, calling the new appointments "a virtuoso human resource solution". Minister Medinsky indeed slipped between Scylla and Charybdis like a virtuoso, i.e., between the necessity to find employment for Nikolay Tsiskaridze (who, as is claimed by people in the know, has sponsors in high places) and the necessity to satisfy the wishes of Valery Gergiev who is friendly with the President.
As to the Maestro, his idea to unite the Mariinsky Theater, the Vaganova Academy, the St Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory, and the Russian Institute of the Art History, expressed in a personal letter to Vladimir Putin, met with bitter resistance of practically everyone in the arts and culture. It looks like after this he tamed his appetite and focused on the Academy. In mid-October during a meeting with President's Cultural Advisor Vladimir Tolstoy, the conductor expressed dissatisfaction withe the quality of the St Petersburg ballet education. This remark addressed to the best ballet school of the country whose graduates occupy leading positions in many of the world's companies, caused ballet professionals present at that meeting to be greatly perplexed. Now, however, Valery Gergiev is publicly clarifying his position, and it now is somewhat different from his initial position. Allegedly he did not propose the unification --- the Ministry of Culture got confused --- and he does not have any claims to the Vaganova Academy, as Mariinsky-2 allegedly has five rehearsal halls (perhaps he was counting the halls for the chorus, orchestra, opera rehearsals, and the performance hall), whereas he was only speaking about the shortcomings of the ballet education in order to refine the relationship between the theater and the school. However, the result is still that the leaders of the Vaganova Academy were dismissed by the end of the month.
It turned out to be more difficult to find employment for Nikolay Tsiskaridze (who became unemployed on June 30, after the then General Manager of the Bolshoi Theater Anatoly Iksanov did not renew both his artistic and teaching contracts), than to satisfy Maestro Gergiev. Not every management role would satisfy the former Bolshoi principal: his attention was only focused on the Bolshoi Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, and the Vaganova Academy. Tsiskaridze would not agree to, for example, the non-prestigious Kremlin Ballet and, indignant at the discussions of his employment search, thundered at the inquirers: "What do they want? To push me out of the country? Should I name those who would like this to happen?" And although no one abroad has invited him (apart from Charles Jude who invited the artist to dance in provincial Bordeaux), the threat of his leaving the country probably worked.
However, it looks like the hope of heading the Bolshoi was not abandoned during the entire summer either by the dancer or by his omnipotent circle of supporters, because in September the Minister of Culture had to personally meet with Tsiskaridze. After that, Vladimir Medinsky called the new General Director of the Bolshoi Theater, Vladimir Urin, with a proposal to organize a farewell performance for the People's Artist. Urin, a diplomat, supported the idea with all the noticeable enthusiasm. He related to the correspondent of "Vesti" that he met with Nikolay Tsiskaridze three times and offered him three benefit performances. However, the General Director was stubbornly refusing to sign a full employment contract, citing a difficult moral climate at the theater. The issue of the benefit performances was hanging in the air, until in mid-September visibly irritated Tsiskaridze publicly announced that he no longer wanted to dance. After the fiasco with the Bolshoi and the never-officially-expressed but quite obvious lack of desire on Gergiev's part to appoint Tsiskaridze the Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Ballet, all that remained for him was the Vaganova Academy.
Not many appreciated the virtuosity of this human resource decision. Besides the interested Valery Gergiev, the resourceful General Director of the Mikhailovsky Theater Vladimir Kekhman, Maria Leonova (the Rector of the Moscow Ballet Academy) who breathed a sigh of relief, and St Petersburg's officials, the theater director Lev Dodin and choreographer Boris Eifman who recently opened his own Dance Academy in St Petersburg expressed their happiness with Tsiskaridze's appointment in the official media. "Theaters of Moscow and St Petersburg, even very big ones, are experiencing a huge human resource shortage, there are not enough artists. This problem has ripened a long time ago, and it is time to solve it," complained Eifman, without, however, explaining how the change of the rector could lead to the increase in the number of graduates, especially if rehearsal studios are taken away from them. Among the less famous persons, the principal of the Mikhailovsky Theater and a graduate of the Kiev Academy, Leonid Sarafanov, expressed optimism.
The rest of the ballet world met the news of the new rector with hostility. This does not just mean the despondent teachers of the Academy who feel at a loss and who have created their mournful and protesting page on social networks. Twitter, blogs, forums both Russian and international, are full of panic: "What a terrible choice!", "What will happen to the Academy!" The issue is not just that fact that St Petersburgians were offended with an appointment of a Moscovite: the antagonism of the two schools has its roots in history, while the superiority of the St Petersburg teaching methods has never been in doubt, as a rule. During two centuries St Peterburgians-Leningradites were being sent to Moscow in order to strengthen the Moscow ballet, and they held key positions at the school as well---for example, in the 1930s, when the remarkable teacher Victor Semenov was appointed head of the Moscow Academy. However, in the entire history of the Russian ballet theater there has never been a precedent for a Moscovite to head the St Petersburg ballet school. In addition, the graduate of the Moscow Ballet Academy Nikolay Tsiskaridze possesses neither any serious experience of working with children, nor, as one might suppose from the hastiness of the appointment, any substantive program of methodological reforms.
However, those offended by the ministerial decision were mostly outraged not by this, but rather by the cynical unceremoniousness of how the human resource revolution was conducted and the personality of its main character. The ballerina Diana Vishneva reduced everyone's groans to a crisp formula, saying publicly: "It's painful to recognize that the change of the leadership in our legendary school could become a chip in someone's games that have nothing to do with the Academy." She added: "Also one cannot forget that a school is, above all, children, and its leader must be morally irreproachable."
This is perhaps the key question. Indeed, it looks like Nikolay Tsiskaridze might be lacking some moral irreproachability. A person who, from the TV screen, calls his colleagues "curs" and expresses the wish to shoot them to death with a machine gun, is hardly fit to be an ideal executive. To this can be added public insults at the Artistic Director Ratmansky, the Bolshoi teachers, and the artists of the company. One could also recall baseless revelation of Nikolay Tsiskaridze about "gold paint" and "plastic material" at the restored Bolshoi, after which all the viewing public started to scrape the gilded fretwork in the boxes. As well as the letter of the cultural icons to Vladimir Putin, organized by the artist himself, proposing to appoint him the General Director of the company. And a very strange reaction to Sergei Filin's injuries: Nikolay Tsiskaridze, self-appointed expert of chemistry and ophthalmology, nevertheless publicly doubted both the diagnosis of the doctors (both Russian and German) and their motives. Incidentally, this hard-to-explain callousness towards his Artistic Director shocked not so much the Russian public as the international one: judging from the international publications, Tsiskaridze's reputation abroad is now irredeemably undermined.
At home, all the scandals started by the People's Artist have been attributed to his short temper and truth-seeking. However, Rudolph Nureyev also had an obnoxious personality. Which did not prevent him from commanding tremendous respect and being in high demand in the ballet world.
In Tsiskaridze's case the issue is not just his personality (although it causes apprehension, especially in the context of a children's school). The issue is also in the fact that the former Bolshoi principal and teacher does not have as high a rating in the professional circles as his worshippers and sponsors think. It is not superfluous to ask the question of why an artist of this caliber who became unemployed was not bombarded with invitations from all the ends of a fairly well-knit ballet world. A logical answer is that perhaps he is not really needed. First, Nikolay Tsiskaridze is not a choreographer. He hasn't showed himself as a good leader because he hasn't lead anything. As a repetiteur of a ballet company, he was a disaster: the ballet "The Lesson" which was entrusted to his care, disappeared from the repertory; "The Pharaoh's Daughter" which was last time given almost a year ago, turned out to be in a disorderly state. Nikolay Tsiskaridze's teaching accomplishments at the Bolshoi are quite questionable. It is known that the first one of his three students, Artem Ovcharenko, was ready to flee from him to another company, and only excelled after switching to another teacher. The second, Denis Rodkin, under Tsiskaridze's instruction danced the leading role in "The Pharaoh's Daughter" half-dead, like a zombi, whereas his best parts---Spartacus and Kurbski---were prepared with other teachers. The third, Angelina Vorontsova, who was talked about as a future star even before she graduated, at the Bolshoi under the tutelage of her teacher Nikolay Tsiskaridze started to dance less cleanly and more sloppily than at school.
What awaits the Vaganova Academy under the new Rector, besides a possible loss of independence or equally possibly communal co-existence with the artists of the Mariinsky company? Perhaps financial well-being. Nikolay Tsiskaridze was received by city officials and showered with kindness. The Vice Governor of St Petersburg Vassily Kichedzhi already promised to house the students from the Teaching Department of the Academy at the city dormitories. One can forecast the grants for the teachers and perhaps the increase of the Academy's budget---Nikolay Tsiskaridze, supported by his sponsors, is sure to get on well with high-ranking officials. It's known for sure that the responsibilities of a rector will be not just expanded but changed: Nikolay Tsiskaridze, the first dancer in history occupying this administrative position, will not restrict himself to financial and operational activities, as has been the custom in St Petersburg for centuries. It is possible that the new rector will not want to teach the children, however, without doubt, he will teach the teachers: it has already been announced that Nikolay Tsiskaridze will "determine the artistic policy of the famous school." Especially given the fact that the new artistic director of the Vaganova Academy, Lopatkina, who is remaining a principal with the Mariinsky, will surely not have time for this. As a reference, when the brilliant ballerina Altynai Asylmuratova was offered this position in 1999, it was demanded of her that she leave the stage. And so she did---at the age of 38. It seems that no one is concerned with her fate now. On the other hand, the unbendable former rector Vera Dorofeyeva already received an excellent offer from Vladimir Kekhman: starting in November, she will be the Deputy General Director of the Mikhailovsky Theater.
Even though in order to become a full-fledged rector Nikolay Tsiskaridze still needs to go through a voting procedure, it seems that officials do not doubt its favorable outcome. Not because they think that the teachers are submissive or unprincipled---on the contrary, they believe the teachers to be decent and noble, as the hostages of any conflict will be the students. And the school? In 275 years, it survived wars and revolutions. It will survive the new Rector as well.