Magazine article Russian Life

Bolshoi Acid Attack: Infighting Turns Violent

Magazine article Russian Life

Bolshoi Acid Attack: Infighting Turns Violent

Article excerpt

IN MID-JANUARY, MOSCOW'S Bolshoi Theater, one of Russia's leading cultural institutions, became the set for a gruesome whodunit, after a masked assailant splashed sulphuric acid into the face of Artistic Director Sergei Filin near his home.

Filin, a charismatic innovator and former Bolshoi star principal dancer, has been the Bolshoi ballet's artistic director since 2011. In the weeks since the attack, Filin has undergone back-to-back surgeries to repair the damage; doctors are unsure whether the director's eyesight can be saved.

Filin had a clear mandate from both the theater and the government to modernize the staid institution. Since the attack, Russian media have been frantically speculating who might have ordered such an assault. At a press briefing after Filin was rushed to the hospital, General Director Anatoly Iksanov pledged that the culprit--"a monster"--would be found. Cameras zoomed in on the usually poised Bolshoi ballerinas, who were weeping and trembling from shock.

Those with inside knowledge of the theater's work ings said that complex power dynamics within the Bolshoi's huge dancing troupe have always led to rivalries. Cruel pranks--like spiking pointe shoes with crushed glass or sending threatening letters--have plagued the Bolshoi since Soviet times, and antagonisms stemming from competition for choice roles occasionally boil to the surface and wind up making headlines.

Investigators grilled dancers and other staff, even employing lie detectors. …

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