Nobody likes to be belittled, and Russia’s biggest theatre is no exception. The Bolshoi is in the midst of a massive row over ballet superstar Nikolay Tsiskaridze’s sacking: rumour has it the iconic theatre did not take kindly to his critical remarks.
Tsiskaridze, who is one of Russia’s most celebrated artists, has received official notice that his contract as a ballet teacher at the Bolshoi will be cut short. The theatre maintains that it needs a ballet teacher who, unlike the eminent soloist, could work full-time.
The notice reportedly came direct from the Bolshoi’s legendary choreographer Yury Grigorovich, and was also said to be prompted by new practice following the venue’s massive six-year renovation.
When the Bolshoi reopened at the end of October, unveiling the most meticulous and expensive restoration in the history of theatre, critical voices were raised over the results, Tsiskaridze the strongest among them. The dancer was quoted as saying he had not expected such poor results after six years of repair works worth over $700 million and supervised by the Kremlin. The star slammed the acoustics, make-up and rehearsal rooms.
Of his dismissal Tsiskaridze said,
I’m absolutely sure that this step by the Bolshoi Theatre proceeds exclusively from the desire to take revenge and teach a lesson to others, who might feel a desire to criticize the Bolshoi in the future.”
On top of this, it seems the theatre’s trade union, supposed to help artists assert their rights, has failed to resolve the situation for one simple reason. Tsiskaridze explained that the head of the ballet company, Sergey Filin, also holds the position of the trade union’s leader.
Therefore, all complaints against Filin as the leader of the Bolshoi ballet end up being considered precisely by him. It’s a dead-end situation, and some of my colleagues like the soloist Andrey Uvarov, who had to leave the theatre not long ago, have already paid the price for trying to stand against Filin.”
The Bolshoi has announced that a female choreographer, Regina Nikiforova, will replace Nikolay Tsiskaridze and his colleague Yan Godovsky. She will be engaged with the theatre full-time.
“As far as I know, by law, if they needed a teacher full-time, they had to offer the position to me first. But they didn’t. And if they don’t in the future, asking someone else to take it, I’ll go to court.”
Tsiskaridze insists he is not going to leave the Bolshoi voluntarily.
The Bolshoi is my life.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.