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Sergei Filin's contract will not be renewed

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The Russian-language version of the Bolshoi web site is reporting that Sergei Filin's contract as AD of the ballet company will not be renewed when it expires in March 2016. No further explanation has been given, and the company will not be providing any further comments on the subject. His successor will be introduced at the beginning of the next season.

The information is listed in the news feed under today's date, 30 July 2015.

http://www.bolshoi.ru/about/press/articles/

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It's a sad next development in this awful process, but it doesn't surprise me.

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I am a little surprised Filin was not given the face-saving solution of announcing that he would be stepping down on account of his compromised health. Instead the release states rather bluntly that Urin met with Filin at the end of the season, and the former informed the latter that his contract would not be renewed. A number of years ago the chief conductor of my local symphony orchestra was dismissed in much the same way, and there was a lot of flak over how the announcement was handled.

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Given his vision issues, how likely is it that Filin will be able to secure a similar position elsewhere. Essentially, this criminal act of blinding him has robbed him of his vision, as well as future employment options. I hope I'm wrong and that he can obtain a good position elsewhere. Awful in every way.

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Urin said last year that there would be an evaluation at this time to determine whether Filin's contract would be renewed. It isn't at all surprising: not the decision, not the timing, not the bluntness.

To chalk it up to health would hurt his chances to do other things, in my opinion. I suspect that face-saving wasn't acceptable.

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No Helene, it's not surprising at all. IM very HO, I think that by extension, some or at the very least, one of the people he brought with him when he became Artistic Director will be collateral damage as well.

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Very uneasy-making news -- including the indication that the new director of the ballet will have less power and the overall head of the theater more...I am sad for Filin as well who--whatever his faults may be--has suffered appallingly and will be dealing with the repercussions of the acid attack for the rest of his life. I hope too that the good developments of the company under his leadership will not get rolled back...

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Hallberg has a home at ABT, and I had a gut feeling that being out so long, his days in Moscow were numbered with or without Filin. I think there would be plenty of companies who would vie for Obraztsova, and she should be fine, especially if she leaves Russia (unless Filin takes over another Russian company). I'm not sure about the rest of Mariinsky-turned-Bolshoi dancers, though.

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Zakharova will be just fine, I think. But Olga Smirnova is one dancer I'm worried about. Should she decide to return to the Mariinsky, I think Fateyev would have to hire her as at least a first soloist (Kristina Shapran's level).

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I hope too that the good developments of the company under his leadership will not get rolled back...

To be honest, I'm not sure there have been all that many.

To chalk it up to health would hurt his chances to do other things, in my opinion. I suspect that face-saving wasn't acceptable.

But I still wonder why Filin wouldn't have wanted to make it appear that the decision to leave was his own, even without appealing to his eyesight. I would have thought it would be better to appear to be master of one's own fate.

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To be honest, I'm not sure there have been all that many.

But I still wonder why Filin wouldn't have wanted to make it appear that the decision to leave was his own, even without appealing to his eyesight. I would have thought it would be better to appear to be master of one's own fate.

Filin may take seriously the Bolshoi's offer to keep him on in some capacity--his comments have certainly eschewed bitterness--and from that point of view he may either prefer a more 'honest' account of the situation or not have been given that much choice. I prefer to think the former. After all how much "face" is saved by something obviously untrue?

In terms of accomplishments: Filin has been stymied (I assume) by his injuries and by politics both internal and external to the theater, though the buck still has to stop with him since he is the director. But he at least tried to expand the repertory (both with 'standard' international rep works and new commisssioned works by international and Russian choreographers) and made some decent choices especially for the company/aesthetic in which the Bolshoi works. For example: I don't care for Onegin--but for the Bolshoi...it's a pretty defensible choice. He has also brought in some interesting artists to the Bolshoi as collaborators. If nothing else, Taming of the Shrew in particular has cultivated and featured the talents of some of its top dancers in fresh ways. (Though I base my judgments on video I don't think I'm the only one who thought it took Krysanova to a whole new level.)

On the dancer front the hiring of Obraztsova and hiring and development of Smirnova seem to me great decisions, though of course I don't know what company insiders feel. I think the hiring of Hallberg was, at any rate, a daring and interesting choice and sent a signal about making the company's culture less insular. No-one wants the Bolshoi to be Russian Ballet Theater, but a little less insularity? Seems like a good thing. On the dancer front too--I like Chudin a lot and since he came from the Stanislavsky a little after Filin, I always assumed he was a Filin hire too. Other talented younger dancers are coming to the fore...Fairness to older dancers? That's a hard call in any company when a new director comes in (see Corella, Angel) and in a company with politics as murky as the Bolshoi?? Let's just say I don't assume Filin has been the sole problem.

I depend on Ismene Brown for information about the financial (mis)management issues -- her reporting said Filin was cleared of any wrongdoing. His own answer to a question about casting-couch and Smirnova in particular was (I thought) hilarious in a very un-PC way, though I understand if others found it in...uh...questionable taste. (He said something to the effect that he could sleep with his wife--also a dancer--for 25 years [or some such] and she still wouldn't be anywhere near as good a dancer as Smirnova.)

But I haven't the faintest if Filin is the "best" person for the job. Actually, the job seems pretty impossible--even without acid-throwing thugs thrown into the mix--and changing the job itself, as announced, in a way that may put more power in the hands of a committee or the overalll theater director?? We will see what happens...

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I would point out that the repertoire choices of Filin's immediate predecessors Burlaka and Ratmansky were far more interesting. I'm not saying that Onegin or Lady of the Camellias are bad repertoire choices for the Bolshoi, but one ballet was choreographed in 1965 and the other in 1978, so no innovation points there. Under Filin the company's repertoire of one-act ballets has fallen into almost total disuse. The Bolshoi gave some 230 performances this season, and as far as I can tell, exactly four were dedicated to a mixed bill. There has also been a highly undesirable surge in performances of Grigorovich dramballets.

I may be in the minority, but I do not share the enthusiasm some have for Filin's outside recruits. With one exception, I don't think they fit in, and since the Bolshoi is one of the few remaining companies with a recognizable style, I don't see what it gains by becoming less insular and potentially diluting its identity. I won't say more on the subject, because it would be wading into matters of taste. But it is debatable to what extent these dancers have made an impact. For example, Hallberg has spent two of his four years with the Bolshoi on the DL. You could count the number of works Obraztsova danced with the company this season on the fingers of one hand, and her work load was only marginally larger than that of Marianna Ryzhkina, whom the Bolshoi has been trying so hard to put out to pasture. Obviously, it isn't Filin's fault that Smirnova spent a year off the stage with injury, but I'm simply pointing out that not all of these hires have yielded huge dividends, and in any case, Filin seems to have lost control of the process some time ago.

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I agree that it would be sad to see the company's identity diluted--and I think some dilution had been going on well before Filin (eg more academic port de bras than the 'old' Bolshoi; fewer uber-masculine male leads). One reason the emergence of Osipova seemed so exciting was that she had a power and personality that seemed to echo an earlier time in the company's history. Vasiliev likewise seemed (and seems) a bit of a throwback.

The other side of that identity, unfortunately, is that it does seem very bound up with the Grigorivich heritage. If/as the company moves away from Grigorivich's productions and ballets, then the way they dance may well change even more than it has. I guess the difficulty is how to preserve an identity AND let it grow and develop. People are very happy with NYCB and Peter Martins now, but in the first 20-25 years after Balanchine's death...not so much.

When Filin was interviewed by Anna Kisselgoff during the Lincoln Center Festival (2014), she pressed him on the changing type of the male dancers at the Bolshoi in particular. At one point he said something to the effect that the older-style, super muscular dancers might not do so well in much of the newer rep. Whether or not that's true, certainly the "golden age" of the Bolshoi is hard to disentangle from the Grigorovich repertory.

(Obviously, since at least the 30's, the Bolshoi has always had a few prominent Vaganova/Mariinsky imports in its top ranks. I'd say that's part of its identity, though I admit the styles don't always mesh. And Filin has imported from elsewhere too.)

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Filin did a lot of good things for the bolshoi, like bringing new work as onegin and la dame aux camelias. but i still think bringing Hallberg to the bolshoi was one of his mistakes. Hallberg is ofcourse a good dancer, but in my opinion not the dancer better than other bolshoi dancers in the leading solist rank. It is sad for Filin, because of his sightproblems he will have a hard time finding a new job in ballet.

I am curious who will be his successor... Anyone any suggestions?

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Urin had a manager who was uninterested in the artistic side, but fired him: Iksanov.

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According to NYT and Ismene Brown's blog http://www.ismeneb.com/Blog/Entries/2015/7/30_Bolshoi_gives_Filin_notice_-_his_job_abolished.html

the artistic directorship Filin currently held will be abolished, and replaced with an administrative director, while the artistic decisions will be made by a directorate. I don't think many boldface names will be interested in the new diminished position.

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I would point out that the repertoire choices of Filin's immediate predecessors Burlaka and Ratmansky were far more interesting. I'm not saying that Onegin or Lady of the Camellias are bad repertoire choices for the Bolshoi, but one ballet was choreographed in 1965 and the other in 1978, so no innovation points there. Under Filin the company's repertoire of one-act ballets has fallen into almost total disuse. The Bolshoi gave some 230 performances this season, and as far as I can tell, exactly four were dedicated to a mixed bill. There has also been a highly undesirable surge in performances of Grigorovich dramballets..

Isn't Urin to blame for some of these things? He took a pretty strong stance on productions he felt were difficult to stage and seemed to feel the Bolshoi's coaches weren't capable of newer works (which, IMO, is rubbish. It is standard practise to bring in outside coaches, particularly towards the end of rehearsals, to work with a company's existing coaches). http://www.ismeneb.com/Blog/Entries/2015/1/31_Urin_admits_hes_become_conservative_at_Bolshoi.html

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Urin was perhaps responsible for replacing a planned revival of The Golden Age with Legend of Love; he had expressed admiration for the latter in an interview. The only time he intervened to cancel a production was in the case of an operatic double bill, because the set change would have required a 45-minute intermission. The revival of Ivan the Terrible took place before Urin and before the acid attack. Pavel Dmitrichenko danced the title role in the first cast.

Consider that Filin had Anatoly Iksanov, who was notoriously disinterested in artistic matters, as his general director for the first half of his directorship. Ballets theoretically in the Bolshoi repertoire that have not been performed since Filin became director include Paquita, Petrushka, Agon, Concerto Barocco, Mozartiana, Symphony in C, Gaîté Parisienne, Les Presages, Le Tricorne, Afternoon of a Faun, The Lesson, Passacaille, In the Upper Room and several one-act ballets by Ratmansky, Possokhov and Wheeldon.

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According to NYT and Ismene Brown's blog http://www.ismeneb.com/Blog/Entries/2015/7/30_Bolshoi_gives_Filin_notice_-_his_job_abolished.html

the artistic directorship Filin currently held will be abolished, and replaced with an administrative director, while the artistic decisions will be made by a directorate. I don't think many boldface names will be interested in the new diminished position.

Curation by committee? Doesn't bode well...

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In a sense, that's how the company has been run since Filin was injured. The dancers wanted in on the artistic committee as well, and Boris Akimov, who was its head, seemed open to the idea ("Why not?"), but Filin vetoed it.

http://izvestia.ru/news/547033

Whatever the system's flaws, it has already been through a test drive.

I don't think many boldface names will be interested in the new diminished position.

Perhaps that's the point.

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The uninjured part of Filin's directorship--and the period when presumably he had the freest hand--lasted a little over two years. That's not a lot of time.

I also admired what Ratmansky and Burlaka did with the company--some of it at any rate. And I absolutely loved the Vikhaerev Coppelia reconstruction which the company brought to exciting contemporary life. But neither of them lasted and it seems as though the job of Bolshoi director has not gotten any easier since then [cough]. The new plan as announced (which Urin rather puzzlingly characterizes as typical of other companies) in which the director supposedly will be responsible primarily for 'administration' and the artistic decisions kicked upstairs may or may not prove much of a solution. Uh...we will find out.

(In Swans of the Kremlin Christine Ezrahi describes artistic control by committee at the Kirov in the 50's/60's and quotes from meetings where artistic decisions were discussed and argued about by a team of people. She seems very interested in how they dealt with external pressures considerably worse than the external pressures top Russian companies face now--though now is problematic enough; she also does a very good job, I thought, of clarifying how and why Grigorovich is such an important figure in getting beyond 'dramballet' even if he sometimes looks to the West like an example of dramballet.)

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