Will ballet public boycott the Bolshoi? | Dance reviews, news & interviews
Will ballet public boycott the Bolshoi?
Opinions range as 50th anniversary tour booking opens in the wake of acid attack on director
Is the Bolshoi Ballet going to have trouble selling its tickets for its London tour as a result of the acid attack on its artistic director Sergei Filin? A range of opinion is erupting among ballet-goers dismayed not only by the attack but by the exposure of vicious infighting inside the Moscow troupe and the subsequent public developments.
Filin's key opponent inside the company, the leading dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze, has been billed to come over on the tour - he has so far expressed no sympathy for Filin's plight, while denying having anything to do with the attack, for which a Bolshoi dancer and two alleged accomplices have been arrested. But he is not yet announced in a partial casting list released yesterday (see below).
One known result of the ghastly event has been the cancellation of a new Rite of Spring by the Royal Ballet's Wayne McGregor, which had been intended as a centrepiece of the Bolshoi's celebration of the centenary of Nijinsky and Stravinsky's legendary work, and was to be performed in London. But without Filin to oversee it, the McGregor faced a fair amount of non-cooperation and was "postponed". Balanchine's Jewels has been substituted.
The tour from 29 July to 17 August marks the 50th anniversary of the Bolshoi's first Covent Garden visit in 1963 presented by Victor and Lilian Hochhauser, and it is considered the most prestigious of their global outings. Other dancers originally announced for London include the American star who left New York for Moscow, David Hallberg, and Svetlana Lunkina, who has since declared that she lives in fear in Russia and would stay in her second home in Canada.
Nothing is certain about Bolshoi casts even till the last minute
But nothing is certain about Bolshoi casts even till the last minute, judging from their last visit in 2010 when Zakharova pulled out with just days to go. At the time it was said she had a recurring hip injury, but it turned out that she was pregnant by the violinist Vadim Repin, now her husband. She has since borne a daughter.
Inconsistency can be expected this year too between the first announcement of personnel, just four days after Filin was doused with sulphuric acid outside his home, and the eventual casts, which may be shaped in the light of what the Moscow police turn up. Some Bolshoi dancers are energetically arguing that there is a mastermind who has not yet been caught.
Zakharova this week expressed deep shock at the attack on Filin, one of her favourite partners of the past, and if he accompanies the tour, as the Bolshoi hope he will, it is with Zakharova that he will be taking his bows to the opening night audience which can be expected to give him a tumultuous reception.
And the events unfolding day by day in Moscow have roused conflicted opinions among dance-lovers on the balletcoforum website as priority booking opened this week at the Royal Opera House. (Public booking for the season opens on 9 April.)
"Definitely staying away - to indicate my opposition to Putin's regime that allows such lawless tyranny to flourish."
"When I first read of the attack on Sergei Filin I was determined to boycott the season, I am still not sure."
"My concern roots from that I would hate to applaud someone who was involved in planning and/or organising this horrible attack."
"It's been hard to decide what to do. I think I've sort of come to the view that the incredible artists of the Bolshoi need support now."
"I had to think long and hard before buying Bolshoi tickets, but finally decided on Flames of Paris and a couple of others."
"I personally feel we should support the company in this difficult time."
"How can it help the recovery of Sergei’s health and spirit if ballet lovers start to hesitate about buying tickets for the Bolshoi’s performances?"
"[People] might possibly feel that staying away is a more civilised, and even a more effective, way to demonstrate a degree of dismay at the parlous state of affairs at the Bolshoi than slashing tyres or countenancing acid attacks. I'm with those who hesitated before booking for the London tour but decided in the end to do so."
Partial casting has been released showing first nights and the much-vaunted young star Olga Smirnova, but so far not revealing if Tsiskaridze will be dancing.
Swan Lake and La Bayadère will both open with the prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, and she will also be the first-night performer of the Diamonds climax to Balanchine's Jewels. This week she revealed why she refused to sign an open letter by some of her Bolshoi colleagues asking for a new investigation into the Filin attack.
Nina Kaptsova will open the run of The Sleeping