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Nikolay Tsiskaridze Opinions


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Thanks, Ilya, for not rebuking me more soundly. I shouldn't have commented -- except to say that the management of great arts organizations is always extremely complicated, and thank you for keeping us informed with educated opinions. Please keep it up.

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I know that the politics of state companies in particular are hornets' nests of intrigue, making the Balanchine succession at NYCB and various coups at companies like SFB look like playground spats, but to think that major Bolshoi artists were convinced of three different scenarios -- Iksanov was leaving on his own, Iksanov was being dumped, Iksanov's contract could not be renewed legally because of term limits -- there must have been a storm of angst.

Ratmansky was lucky to get out of the viper pit.

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More reactions from various signers, from a newspaper called "Vzglyad",


While it certainly looks like Tsiskaridze has done some despicable things here, the explanations of some of the signers look quite bizarre. For example, in a previous interview (translated above) Lavrovsky said that Tsiskaridze brought the letter to him, and now he says that he didn't read it. Why?? The reaction of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater press person is very strange. Zakharov's new explanation is also very strange.

On November 9, it came out that a letter existed that proposed to replace the current director of the Bolshoi Theater Anatoly Iksanov with Nikolay Tsiskaridze. The information about the existence of this letter, as well as about the fact that it was signed by a group of famous Russian arts personalities and addressed to the President of RF [Note: RF = Russian Federation], appeared in the blog of the President's International Cooperation Representative and the former Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoi. The entry said that among the signers there were managers of other theaters, i.e., people who do not have any formal relationship with the Bolshoi Theater. The author of the entry did not reveal the source of the information, he only remarked that "no one among the signers made any secret of the letter."

Mikhail Shvydkoi shared with the readers his bewilderment regarding this document, remarking that the situation was unprecedented, and expressed obvious reproach towards the participants of this endeavor, although he remarked that they were his idols. "It is unlikely that the signers do not understand what a tremendous job Iksanov has done, pulling the Bolshoi from the ruins---both literally and figuratively. It is unlikely that they do not understand that Nikolay Tsiskaridze is unable to manage such a complex team as the Bolshoi Theater," wrote Shvydkoi, supposing further that the signers were driven by some other motives.

An amusing nuance was the fact that this entry appeared in the evening of November 9, whereas in the morning of the same day the Minister of Culture Medinsky had announced the decision of the Ministry of Culture to renew the contract of the current director of the Bolshoi Theater Anatoly Iksanov.

The information related by Shvydkoi was confirmed when the situation was commented upon personally by some of the signers. Gennady Khazanov confirmed in an interview to "Izvestiya" that his signature was contained under the document in question. However, in Khazanov's opinion, there were no invectives against Anatoly Iksanov in the letter, and it was written only in order to support Nikolay Tsiskaridze's candidacy to the spot of the General Director of the Bolshoi Theater that was being vacated. Another famous signer, Oleg Tabakov, the Artistic Director of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater, justified his support of Tsiskaridze's candidacy in an interview to "The New Izvestiya" by the fact that the latter spoke a lot about the blunders made during the recent reconstruction of the Bolshoi which was concluded in 2011. According to Tabakov, a person who speaks about shortcomings of the property management, can lay a claim to the position of the director.

However, the full list of those whose names are under the document, remained unknown for awhile---as well as the text of the letter. Journalist and TV anchor Tina Kandelaki testified in her blog that some even said that there was no such letter and that the information about it is false.

The situation was finally clarified on November 21, when Tina Kandelaki, who is famous for her concerned attitude towards the fate of the Bolshoi, published in her blog the scan of the letter with clearly visible text, the names of the signers, and their handwritten signatures. It came out that the letter was signed, besides Khazanov and Tabakov, by 10 more people: actor Vladimir Andreyev, coach Irina Viner, theater directors Galina Volchek and Mark Zakharov, a Bolshoi Theater teacher Yuri Vladimirov, a Bolshoi Theater ballet master-repetiteur Mikhail Lavrovsky, the director of the Moscow State Choreographic Academy and ballerina Marina Leonova, opera primadonna Yelena Obraztsova, actress Alisa Freindlich, and tenor Zurab Sotkilava. Kandelaki is not revealing the source of this exclusive story; however, there are no good reasons to doubt the authenticity of the document.

It turned out that the real content of the document does not quite match the recent statements of the signers. The text clearly says that "the theater needs changes, which must begin already at the end of December 2012 with the replacement of the General Director A.G. Iksanov who has been occupying this position since 2000." Taking this passage into account, it seems impossible to say that the letter is not directed against the current director. At the same time, the letter entirely lacks Oleg Tabakov's considerations regarding possible property management capabilities of Nikolay Tsiskaridze: as arguments supporting his candidacy, the letter cites only artistic merits, his high standing in Russian ballet, and the fact that he is emblematic of the Bolshoi Theater of the 1990s-2000s.

After the letter was published, some of the signers retracted their signatures, in fact admitting that they were not familiar with the text they signed, and were not aware of the situation with the management positions at the Bolshoi. Mark Zakharov and Yelena Obraztsova wrote apologetic letters to Anatoly Iksanov. Mark Zakharov said that he was not informed about the proposal to relieve Iksanov from managing the theater that was contained in the letter. Yelena Obraztsova also explained what happened as a misunderstanding: as it turned out, she did not know that Iksanov will keep working at the theater. "I was told that your contract had not been renewed," she wrote to Iksanov in the letter of apology. Soon, Zurab Sotkilava also joined the ranks of those retracting their signatures.

The press office of the Bolshoi Theater, which the "Vzglyad" newspaper contacted for comments on these events, reacted quite unequivocally. "Of course, in this situation we cannot comment on the actions of the people who signed the letter," explained the head of the press office Yekaterina Novikova to the correspondent of the "Vzglyad" newspaper. "Now Sotkilava is also saying that he was deceived. It is obvious that the letter itself, as well as the new wave of resentment against the leadership of the Bolshoi, raised by the texts of Tina Kandelaki---all of it is the consequence of the fight of the artist whose career is ending, for the position of the General Director."

The head of the Department of Creative Planning of the Bolshoi Theater Mikhail Fikhtengoltz is not inclined to give this story much significance. "The problem is absolutely contrived, and the whole situation is, honestly speaking, absurd from the beginning," he noted in a conversation with a "Vzglyad" correspondent. "The theater itself and its leadership has nothing to do with any of this." In his opinion, the correct thing to do is not to comment and to be above the incomprehensible fight for power which played out during the last few days.

Very different comments arrive from the people who signed the letter.

From the words of a Ballet Master-Repetiteur of the Bolshoi Thatear Mikhail Lavrovsky it follows that the process of collecting the signatures was a personal initiative of Nikolay Tsiskaridze. "We are very pleased with Iksanov," explained Lavrovsky to "Vzglyad". "However, we heard rumours that the leadership of the theater will be changed, that after the New Year everybody will leave. And in fact we often see how people who have no relation to the arts whatsoever are appointed to leadership positions in theaters. Therefore, when Kolya told us that he would like to put forward his candidacy to compete for the position and asked if we would support him, we agreed. Why not? He is a remarkable artist. If he is able to be a manager at the same level, great. The idea came from him. I signed the letter because I respect Kolya. I did not read the text of the letter because I trust Kolya. I only asked him: this is not against the management? He said no. So I said, if this is simply to help you, then sure. And now it appears that this was a frame-up."

However, Lavrovsky partially agrees with Nikolay Tsiskaridze's critical comments regarding the results of the reconstruction of the Bolshoi Theater. According to the ballet master, for him the Bolshoi after the reconstruction is a completely different theater, not the one that he was used to and in which he worked for many years.

"There was no intention to remove Iksanov, God forbid. This was all invented by Shvydkoi, most likely" -- this is how the actions of Oleg Tabakov were commented on by Alla Shpolyanskaya, an official at the press office of the Chekhov Moscow Art Theater headed by Tabakov. "He was offered and he signed, just like Zakharov, Obraztsova, and Sotkilava. Tsiskaridze is a young and energetic man, however, he will soon be 40, so why not head up the theater? Oleg Pavlovich says that he is not retracting anything and is not hiding. He repeated several times that he had already said everything and is not going to say anything new on this topic."

One of the signers who apologized to Anatoly Iksanov, the Artistic Director of the Lenkom Theater Mark Zakharov, admitted in a conversation with "Vzglyad" that during the collection of signatures he acted spontaneously and not in a completely balanced way.

"I think it is not necessary to appeal for help to the President every time. This is an unnecessary demonstration of our powerlessness and inability to navigate the laws of our country", said Zakharov to "Vzglyad". "In my case there was some emotional pressure related to the names. They started to list the names of quite respected and intelligent people, such as Tabakov… And I agreed, because I was not proposing anything bad, only good things. It was about the possibility of considering such-and-such person for such-and-such position. As to the part regarding Iksanov, I was not warned about it. Generally speaking, meddling in such things over the phone is not a very good thing. I am sorry that it turned out this way."

However, to be fair, it must be noted that not everyone was in the same situation as Mikhail Lavrovsky and Mark Zakharov.

Honored Coach of Russia Irina Viner, who also signed the document, told "Vzglyad" that she had read the text. "How could I sign it without having seen the text? I am not insane," she responded to a question from the correspondent of "Vzglyad". She also confirmed that she actually deems Nikolay Tsiskaridze to be an appropriate candidate for the post of the director of the theater.

As to Nikolay Tsiskaridze, he refused to comment.

As we noted above, previously Tsiskaridze criticized the reconstruction of the Bolshoi which occurred from 2005 until 2011. He found significant shortcomings both in the redesign of the backstage and rehearsal spaces, declaring that they made the artists' work more difficult, and in the aesthetics of the new interior design, pointing out, in particular, that there were no bronze candelabra left in the theater. A quote from Tsiskaridze's interview to "Interfaks" resonated across the media space: "Everything that they have done with the Bolshoi Theater is vandalism." Soon after, a conflict began between the opponent of vandalism and the leadership of the Boshoi (which went on approximately from the end of October of 2011 until mid-January of 2012.) The contract of the artist with the theater was under the threat of being prematurely terminated; however, in the end the management made the decision to retain Tsiskaridze at the Bolshoi as a teacher.

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While in the short term Kolya may be able to continue dancing and teaching, in the long term, I think this letter will torpedo any opportunities in management. To serve in management for a state organization requires supreme diplomacy and discretion, and -ahem- not being a media divo. These are qualities that Kolya does not seem to be working on.

Positions may open up in other companies, but I don't think the Bolshoi would accept him now, after this mess. I wish he had gone the route of Tamara Rojo: served on arts boards, shadows other AD's to learn more, and perhaps taken up an apprenticeship position with a different theater to learn the management tasks. I don't know if Kolya's has a university education, but I think an MBA focused on arts management would be useful.

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The way in which Ms Rojo attained her present position left UK ballet fans aghast, she most certainly isn't someone to be held up as an example of doing things the right way.

Can you explain this statement further? I was of the impression that Jayne put forward above: That she had done everything one could to prepare herself for an AD position and then applied vigorously for the position when it was available.

Obviously we are missing whatever information it is that resulted in UK fans being aghast, or have misunderstood the situation.

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Applying vigorously in this instance appears to have included methods most would not condone, don't forget that the sitting director of ENB was sacked to make way for her and her actual appointment seems to have contravened UK employment law. As this thread is about Nikolai Tsiskaridze, I suggest you look elsewhere on the web for the information on this that is readily available.

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Applying vigorously in this instance appears to have included methods most would not condone, don't forget that the sitting director of ENB was sacked to make way for her and her actual appointment seems to have contravened UK employment law. As this thread is about Nikolai Tsiskaridze, I suggest you look elsewhere on the web for the information on this that is readily available.

I haven't found anything to support these extremely serious accusations. Could you please cite press reports supporting these?

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Jeffrey Taylor wrote:


I WONDER what John Talbot, Chairman of ENB’s Board of Governors, saw in front of him on the Coliseum stage last Thursday? It was certainly not what I saw, a company clearly head and shoulders above the almost fatal artistic and financial morass inherited from previous directors...

However, what planet was John Talbot occupying on the opening night of their current London season, a brilliant and exciting affair? ...He had already dismissed artistic director Wayne Eagling, the man responsible for the inspiration and guts we celebrated last week. Since his appointment nearly seven years ago, Eagling has salvaged the company from almost certain liquidation.

As the audience repeatedly rose to its feet around him, did the question “why?” never cross Talbot’s mind? Rumour has it that Chairman Talbot tried to rid himself of Eagling at the end of last year, but the dancers said no. This time an allegedly surprise manoeuvre succeeded.

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The Dancing Times quoted a letter by a number of ENB supporters who asked, they said, to remain anonymous:


Dear Editor –– Lady Harlech, the former Chair of English National Ballet, once said: “The ENB Board was a shambles… they behaved pretty badly.” Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose… The recent removal of Wayne Eagling from the artistic directorship of ENB demonstrates an inept lack of judgment by the current Board. It is well known in ballet circles that Eagling was forced to “resign” and is gagged to say nothing about how the Board has treated him – so much for the accountability of a publicly funded arts organisation. The Board also refuse to state publicly – or even to members of the company – its reasons for dismissing Eagling, and so they might, for if they did they would have to hang their heads in shame.

What planet do the Chair, John Talbot, and his colleagues live on? Most companies would give their swan’s eggs for a director of such quality, vivacity and imagination

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I must be missing something. None of the things you've cited seem to prove your point. There are suggestions she had been flagged for the post before it was available, but those come from commenters on articles. The board treating the former director horribly doesn't constitute evidence that Tamara Rojo did anything wrong.

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Margaret Willis's interview with Rojo http://www.dancemaga...-2012/In-charge is subtle in the extreme, but it's clear that Ms Willis is all too aware of the back story here.

In 2011, The Royal Ballet announced a search for a new director to take over from retiring Dame Monica Mason. Rojo applied, though claims she had no expectations. She says, however, that it was invaluable to go through the process of applying and being interviewed. (Kevin O’Hare, a former Birmingham Royal Ballet principal dancer and Royal Ballet administrative director, took over in July.) Then she got wind last fall that the ENB Board had asked director Wayne Eagling to resign (for reasons still unclear). The dancers, appreciative of his effort to establish a company of top technicians, petitioned and he kept his job—but not for long. In early 2012, he was again asked to leave, and this time the order stood. After a somewhat hurried application process, Rojo’s name was the one bandied about by speculators, so there was little surprise when the announcement was finally made.

What was actually being bandied about was the fact that Rojo had been interviewed for the job the previous December, i.e. before Wayne Eagling was sacked. Put bluntly an ENB insider leaked the story because he was disgusted by the actions of the ENB board towards Eagling. Also please note that the original moves to sack him were made last summer as by 31st July he was confirmed as remaining in the post following protests by the company members, therefore she was actively petitioning for the job "last fall" when Eagling's position with the company was supposed to be secure.

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Sorry, but the "Dance Magazine" article doesn't say that: it says that somehow Rojo found out that the ENB board was planning to force his resignation a second time last Fall, she contacted them, they interviewed her for a job that wasn't yet open, and when the job was open, they hired her.

If the board had already forced his resignation once, but he kept his job because of dancer support, and she got wind that they were planning to do it again, it makes sense that would conclude that they were serious about it this time, and it would stick. Did she break into a Board meeting and steal memos about the second forced resignation? Probably not. The Board let it slip, deliberately or inadvertently, but if it was the latter, they could have put her off when she approached them, and even have decided that to hold it against her. So either they planned to find a replacement before they had an opening, or that happy opportunity fell into their lap, and they took advantage of it. Given the circumstances, and the likely disgruntlement and dissatisfaction among the dancers the sacking would bring, it was a good tactic on their part to have a short selection process and a pre-vetted candidate.

She has nothing to be surprised about if they use the same sleazy tactics on her to find her replacement, just as Tsiskaridze should never be surprised if this should backfire on him in a similar way going forward. He seems to have been caught by surprise that in the electronic age, the petition would have been kept secret, though.

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