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Tsiskaridze: save us from the half-trained West

Bolshoi labour contract ready at last

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' All our criteria are perfectly legal, they have been set down as recommended  by the Ministry of Culture'

20 NOV 14  

The power of Nikolai Tsiskaridze to fashion the world around him continues to impress - a future Vaganova Academy Rector has to be a full-scale People’s Artist with a law degree, it’s reported by several Russian news publications.

The academy has closed entries into its elections for the position on Saturday week by changing its criteria for candidates in such a way that only the controversial acting Rector may qualify.

According to the Moscow daily Izvestia (an unstinting supporter of the hostile Tsiskaridze camp throughout the Bolshoi acid saga last year) the Minister of Culture recommended that Russia’s top ballet school redefine qualifications for the Rector so as to exclude many academic degrees but to let in a jurisprudence one - which handily Tsiskaridze has just taken a master’s in in Moscow.

The addition of the "People’s Artist" qualification ensures that only the handful of top performers with this CBE-level award would be considered.

According to Izvestia some in high places find this late adjustment of specifications an unorthodox move. The paper reports that one of Tsiskaridze’s rivals for the job in the past, Mariinsky Ballet soloist Ilya Kuznetsov, calls it a blatant fix. He says he gave up fighting because it was so clear that the requirements for candidature for the position - which is rated one of the top three jobs in Russian ballet, alongside the Bolshoi and Mariinsky ballet directorships - would spell out just one name.

The high level of pressure behind the backing for Tsiskaridze is shown by Rossiiskaya Gazeta’s report that deputy prime minister Olga Golodets gave Tsiskaridze a glowing encomium on a visit to the school’s graduation. She praised “new approaches” to children’s physical health and cultural education which had “a beneficial effect on both the image of the school and the psychological climate among the staff.” She said the election would show that the Vaganova had already found itself a strong leader.

Here is a translation of the Izvestia report on the election criteria change.

Academy head must be a People’s Artist with a law degree

Izvestia, 17 November 2014, 18:37, by Oleg Karmunin

The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet has made new conditions for the elections for its Rectorship. Now candidates wishing to be considered for the position require higher education in the field of jurisprudence, as well as the title of People’s Artist of the Russian Federation. Under these new regulations, academic degrees will not qualify.

One candidate for the position fits these criteria - the present acting Rector Nikolai Tsiskaridze (in 2014 he completed a master’s degree at Moscow State Law Academy). The elections will be held on 29 November by means of a secret ballet among staff at the academy, and will be uncontested. If the criteria had not been altered, the former Bolshoi Theatre principal dancer could not have entered the elections.

“All our criteria are perfectly legal, they have been set down in the light of recommendations from the Ministry of Culture,” said the document’s author, Tsiskaridze’s public issues advisor Olga Martsinkevich. “We have slightly broadened the criteria for entry into the elections, since this is a creative institution and it can be hard to find the right person.”

The new proposition was discussed at a session of the academy’s Academic Council, and no changes were made in the document. A member of the representative body, Mariinsky Theatre soloist Nikita Shcheglov, said he found “nothing to complain about” in the clauses relating to the qualifications of the Rector.

“These criteria are not in any way exclusive - anyone who wished to could apply. But it so happens that only one application has been received. A rival competitor was refused permission to register an application because of the age limit [up to 65 - Izvestia]. So the only registered candidate is Nikolai Tsiskaridze,” said [Shcheglov].

According to Olga Martsinkevich, the criteria were “toughened” in line with the new qualification handbook for posts of managers, specialists and employees adopted in 2011.

Under this handbook, the Rector should be a Russian Federation citizen possessing higher professional training, further professional training in the field of state and municipal management, personnel management, project management, business management and economics; relevant academic degrees and titles; at least five years’ experience of relevant scientific or educational work.

‘It gives the impression that no one else will be let near the job’

These changes in the criteria aroused varied reactions In the professional ballet world.

The previous Vaganova Academy Rector Vera Dorofeyeva said that till now the criteria for the Rectorship were no difference from any other higher institutes. “The criteria for rectors of the Vaganova Academy and the Forestry Institute were the same. The leader of an academy should have a degree and the specific professional skills for the position. Under the new requirements at the Vaganova Academy, no one other than Tsiskaridze can be Rector. It gives the impression that no one else will even be allowed to get near the job,” says Dorofeyeva.

Ilya Kuznetsov, the leading Mariinsky Theatre soloist who has previously sought the position, said that the new criteria would not allow him into the elections. “The document effectively states in black and white: ‘Nikolai Maximovich Tsiskaridze’. I have given up the fight, since there came a point when I realized that it wasn’t worth spending time on a pointless chase. No one had any intention to interview me, they didn’t even take me seriously,” says Kuznetsov.

The director of the magazine Higher Education Today Nikolai Pakhomov said that there are “quite a lot” of Rectors of higher institutes who do not have academic degrees. “Of course it is always better if they do have a degree. But it would be very bad indeed for the ballet academy to have as its Rector a Doctor of Philosophy without any connection to art at all,” said the expert.

Natalia Zozulina, associate professor at the Vaganova Academy, said that in Soviet times the leaders of the country’s oldest ballet school were appointed from above. “Elections for the Rector first took place in 2001, won by Leonid Nadirov, who had led the school since 1986. When Vera Dorofeyeva led the academy, the elections were uncontested. But this was normal, as it does not go against the academy’s charter,” said Zozulina.

Sergei Zhorin, a lawyer and chairman of the Presidium of the Moscow Bar, told Izvestia that the new criteria for the position of Vaganova Academy Rector do not infringe the charter, and therefore comply with standards.

The personnel changes in the Academy of Russian Ballet began on 28 October 2013, when the then Rector Vera Dorofeyeva was dismissed and Tsiskaridze was appointed Acting Rector. On 9 December the Vaganova’s artistic director Altynai Asylmuratova resigned, and on 1 January 2014 her place was taken by the Mikhailovsky Theatre coach Zhanna Ayupova.

The Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet was founded in 1738, and is one of the oldest ballet schools in the world. Among its graduates are Vatslav Nijinsky, George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and others. Vaganova graduates are the backbone of the Mariinsky Ballet and work successfully in many companies in Russia and the world.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze [photo: Victor Chernov / Russian Look]

Vaganova rewrites criteria to suit Tsiskaridze