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Sergei Filin Attacked

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The Times of London is saying that Sergei Filin now has only 5% vision and that there are now fears he may not be able to return to his job. I could only read the preview since I don't have a subscription but here's the link in case anyone here does subscribe and is able to read the entire article.


It's certainly a heartbreaking turn of events, especially considering how optimistic his doctors were in the beginning about him regaining enough vision to go back to work and lead a normal life.

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It is tragic for Filin and his family and for the Bolshoi. He had the foresight to invite Smirnova, Obratsova, Chudin and Hallberg to join the company and he was a wonderful coach/ director. I hope for a miracle; i hope he will find within himself a way to be expressive and useful.

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How much vision does Ms Alonso have, actually? I think that she was completely - or nearly completely - blind at one time, but I thought that some vision returned?

(I have less than 20%, but with glasses/contacts it is still all right to do most things - I would hope that Filin would have, with correction of the eyes through glasses, etc. - considerably more than the five per cent quoted! )

Oh, and ARE full eye-transplants even done? I cannot remember hearing /reading about them, but that of course proves nothing. :)


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Alonso is a very special case -- in a very special circumstance. I can imagine the Bolshoi trying to find a role for Filin if he loses his vision entirely or has only 5%, but can hardly imagine them really letting him return to his former job at least not without a team that would change the very way the job is done.

The earliest reports about his eyes never seemed likely to be that accurate (and were fairly vague). Though, certainly, in this case I hope it turns out optimism will have been justified! For quite a while now, though, the reports on his eye-sight have not been good.

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Baryshnikov has some interesting things to say about the attack (and about Ratmansky):

He was, he says, appalled to read of the acid attack in January this year on the Bolshoi’s artistic director, Sergei Filin. The company’s earlier director, Alexei Ratmansky, who left the Bolshoi for New York in 2009, is a close friend.

“I was elated when Ratmansky took over that company. I said something smart is happening in Russia,” Baryshnikov says. “And then I was very happy that he was out.”

He laughs, more sourly this time. Ratmansky — whom he describes as “without doubt the top classical choreographer; Russia never had anybody better” — was driven away by the poisonous politics of the Bolshoi, which are also behind the attack on Filin.

Baryshnikov is cautious but clear, on the subject.

“I am not entitled to give my opinions because I don’t know the detail,” he says. “From one side, it’s real personal tragedy and from the other it’s a damn soap opera, of course, which is like everything in Russia. It’s a horrific reality and there is a non-stop ugly vaudeville.”

Read more: http://www.calgaryherald.com/entertainment/Everything+Russia+damn+soap+opera+laments+Mikhail+Baryshnikov/8578269/story.html#ixzz2XJdYO0RF
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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.]

"Creative meat"

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.


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An interview with Obratzova in which she pays warm tribute to Filin (whom she had just visited in Aachen). Unsurprisingly, she is rather less warm about Fatayev, but also about claims that Filin is faking his injuries:

"It’s inhuman and absolutely incorrect to say such a thing . . . These people just don’t put themselves in his or his mother’s shoes. I saw his eyes, his skin – it’s a tragedy.”


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Video news of Urin Visiting Filin in Germany. Filin plans to return to Bolshoi in mid-September and discussing plans for premieres with John Neumeier and Pierre Lacotte.


This is also reported on Chicago Tribune.


Another link of this news. He seems optimistic with his left eye.


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Thanks naomikage for the links, especially for the Chicago Tribune article, which is actually from Reuters.

I was especially interested in the last paragraph:

Last month, Russia dismissed the long-serving head of the Bolshoi, Anatoly Iksanov, and entrusted Vladimir Urin with rebuilding the theatre's reputation following the scandal.

It sounds like a good sign, when the Powers That Be at the Bolshoi (whoever they are) becomes concerned about what the rest of the world thinks about them.. I hope the article is correct about the motive of "rebuilding reputation." I also hope that Urin is given the authority to do what's necessary to do what is necessary to rebuild public confidence in the institution.

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The latest, in translation on Ismene Brown's blog:

Dmitrichenko: ‘I ask Filin’s pardon, his health is priority now’

I think to summarize:

1. He never had any hostility towards Filin

2. The media distorted his case

3. His former lawyer, Violetta Volkova, made "unauthorized statements"

4. He has no plans to discuss financial issues at the Bolshoi, because he was never involved in them [despite being a union representative]

5. "Also, I never did consider, and I do not consider now, that I had no involvement at all in the Zarutsky attack on Sergei." [which I think means he denies having denied participation?]

6. He never wanted an examination of Filin to confirm that the injuries are as bad as his Russian and German doctors said. (That was his [first] lawyer's idea.)

7. He's willing to pay compensation to Filin.

8. He has moral responsibility for the attack.

Of course, if he had no hostility toward Filin, there would have never been a reason for any attack -- beating or acid -- in the first place, but it's quite a turn-around. Maybe they'll argue that he can never pay Filin compensation if he's jailed, especially since he's not trained to do much after he gets out of prison and depending on the length of the sentence, he might no longer be able to dance.

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I believe this is what is called "throwing yourself on the mercy of the court" in the US - trying for contrition in order to get a lesser sentence. Not sure if it will work in Russia, as I don't really understand the judicial system there (what works or does not work). But clearly he thinks his first attorney's legal defense was not working out well for him.

I think the best he can hope for is to plead to lesser charges, based on boastful talk that the "hitman" regarded as more sincere than intended. We haven't seen reports of the presentation of the police evidence. I am very curious to see what the phone call history really looks like (not just the summaries we've read so far). They will either be damning or exonerating.

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There is actually little new in what Dmitrichenko and Zarutsky had to say. According to information leaked from police interrogations back in March, Dmitrichenko said that he was sorry for what had happened, never authorized the use of acid and was willing to pay Filin compensation. It's in the last paragraph of this story posted on March 8.


Zarutsky assumed complete responsibility for the attack from the beginning, which was immediately suspected to be an attempt to get rid of conspiracy charges. This story is from March 12.


And because Dmitrichenko had asked Pronin about Filin's whereabouts, Pronin did fall under police scrutiny for a while, but was quickly dropped from the list of possible suspects. I could ask a co-worker where our boss was at the moment, and then, upon finding out from said co-worker that she was out, could go into her office and hack into her computer or steal something from a file cabinet, but that wouldn't mean that the person who provided me with information would have had any idea of what I intended to do with it.

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I would have thought that Dmitrichenko asking Pronin about Filin's whereabouts on the night of the attack might have raised some doubts in Pronin's mind about Dmitrichenko's innocence. But I guess not given Pronin's show of support for him after his arrest.

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I think there are several big differences: I haven't seen anything before where Dmitrichenko has been contrite -- he told a judge that he had nothing for which to apologize, since he had not agreed specifically to the acid attack -- and offered to assume financial responsibility for the outcome. (He also claimed earlier to have wanted the entire idea to have been forgotten, but then actively participated in the stakeout, which may have kept him from retribution by Zarutsky, involving a friend without the friend's knowledge of what he was up to, which was cowardly and selfish.) His attitude at any point in time may have been due to his first lawyer's strategy, because I don't see anywhere until now that he blamed her, or it may be his new lawyer's strategy, all of which is to expected when legal teams change. (His original attorney got to add another high-profile client to her list, with the subsequent publicity.) Last he claims never to have had any hostility towards Filin, which is still laughable, considering he involved a thug and killer in a different kind of attack, but I would not be surprised if he believes this, because by also accounts from the dancers who've defended him, that he blows up and all is forgotten.

As far as asking Pronin Filin's whereabouts, there was nothing that would cause Pronin to be suspicious of anything, since it was not unusual for a dancer to need to speak to the AD.

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