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© Ismene Brown 2017

30 JUL 15     

Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet artistic director whose sight was maimed by an acid attack organized by a disgruntled dancer, will lose his post when his contract expires next year.

Bolshoi Theatre chief Vladimir Urin announced today that he is abolishing Filin’s job and replacing it with a more management-focused director, while the artistic decision-making is taken into the theatre directorate as a whole.

The new director, which Urin says will be effectively more similar to ballet company directors in other world companies, will be named and introduced in September when the company returns from their summer break. Urin refused to give a name, but it does appear to be a man from his choice of pronouns.

He says that Filin’s authority and stamp on the next season will remain unquestioned, with the latest of his planned commissioned premieres, Ondine by Vyacheslav Samodurov (a much loved former Royal Ballet principal who began his choreographic development in the UK) and a work by Dutch contemporary choreographers Paul Lightfoot (ex Royal Ballet School) and Sol Leon.

Filin will also apparently figure in the Bolshoi’s tour to London next summer, and Urin said discussions are going on about retaining him in the capacity of a ‘specialist’ with the Bolshoi Ballet after his contract expires next March.

As Urin acknowledges, Filin’s artistic legacy at the Bolshoi in just five years has been praiseworthy. The latest of his stream of commissioned creations, A Hero of Our Time, based on Lermontov’s novel, directed by the news-making theatre and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov (of San Francisco Ballet), has had largely positive reviews this month.

Urin mentions the quantity of fine dancers and productions that have emerged from Filin’s artistic directorship, which begs the question whether by removing the chance for his successor to exercise such creative authority, the tight committee directorate being proposed can emulate (or even wants to emulate) this sort of approach. In Filin’s initial absences for emergency eye treatment after the acid attack in January 2013, an ‘artistic council’ of ballet leaders, teachers and performers was installed at the Bolshoi to run daily affairs, which became the focus of power struggles and was observed to make it harder on Filin’s return for him to resume his former authority unrestrained.

And yet the Bolshoi Ballet, for decades considered backward when it came to new ballets, has developed very swiftly recently, sampling international choreography with energy - a development that started under Filin’s former boss Alexei Ratmansky a decade ago.

Although in the aftermath of the acid attack and the immediate uncertainty about Filin’s condition, Wayne McGregor stepped back from his planned new Rite of Spring, the Bolshoi‘s new man at the helm Urin managed to talk up his priority to put Russian talents ahead of Western ones while simultaneously supporting Filin’s distinctly internationalist plans for an array of new acquisitions and premieres by major world names.

Filin’s inclusion in his commissions of successful Russian choreographers based or trained abroad, like Yuri Posokhov and Vyacheslav Samodurov, has managed to look both ways.

The Bolshoi Theatre also appears to have proven an exemplary employer in regard to Filin’s injuries, funding his state-of-the-art treatment in Germany (which apparently now tallies some 30-plus operations and procedures, and is still ongoing) in the teeth of attempts at one point by supporters of his attackers to blame German doctors for the impaired state of his vision.

Filin recently gave an interview that his sight has improved to the point where he can now drive a car. It suggests that he is now able to work relatively normally, and that the Bolshoi Theatre could not be accused of getting rid of a handicapped employee whose injuries were caused in connection to his employment. Hence, the contract’s expiry date appears to be relatively fortunate on both sides.

Here is a translation of the full TASS report, which other press have sampled in edited forms.


TASS, July 30, by Olga Svistunova

No renewal for ballet artistic director

The contract with People’s Artist of Russia Sergei Filin as the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director, which expires on March 17, 2016, will not be renewed, the theatre’s general director Vladimir Urin has told TASS.

"I have decided not to extend the contract with Sergei Filin, which expires on March 17 next year. Under the law I could have given him notice two months before the contract expired, but considering the importance of circumstances, ethical standards and my respect for Sergei Yurievich, I decided to tell him well in advance, so that he would be able to be prepared and have the time to consider his next step,” said Urin.

The Bolshoi Theatre chief executive said he personally informed Filin of his decision. “It was important to me that Sergei heard of it from me and not via the media, as has been known to happen in the Bolshoi Theatre’s history,” he said.

Urin acknowledged that he had no complaints about Filin’s work as ballet artistic director. On the contrary, he positively appreciated his work.

“What a quantity of remarkable dancers has appeared in the ballet company! How many interesting productions have been put on, initially created for the New Stage and then after the return to the reconstructed historic stage of the Bolshoi!” he said.

According to him, Filin should be credited to a large extent for the fact that under him the Bolshoi has staged works by such well-known choreographers as Roland Petit, Pierre Lacotte, John Neumeier and Jean-Christophe Maillot. Yuri Grigorovich revived two of his own ballets.

“The non-renewal of the contract with Filin relates to internal matters within the theatre,” said Urin.

”For practically the whole next season the company will be led by Sergei Filin, whose instructions must be rigorously fulfilled”

He said also that the post of artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet will cease to exist from March 18, 2016. “Instead, there will be established a post of director of the ballet company of the Bolshoi Theatre, analogous to that of directors in other opera and ballet houses around the world,” said Urin.

According to him, the responsibilities of the new director of the Bolshoi Ballet will be mainly focused on organisational operation. “The director will be required to handle company administration, oversee the timing and quality of production output, and the fulfilment of tour scheduling. In addition, it will be his responsibility to prepare and run repertoire strategy, together with the theatre directorate,” said Urin.

However, he specially emphasised that the responsibility of the ballet director will be to prepare and implement repertoire strategy alongside the theatre directorate.

Urin flatly refused to name the next director of the Bolshoi Ballet. It will be done a few days after the company returns in September, when we will introduced the future director to the company,” he said.

"But I want to clarify that for practically the whole upcoming season the ballet company will be led by Sergei Filin, whose instructions must be rigorously fulfilled by the company. Under Filin’s leadership there will be held memorial evenings in memory of Maya Plisetskaya, Sophia Golovkina, and Raisa Struchkova, and there will also be the premiere of a ballet which brings to the Bolshoi fo the first time the celebrated Dutch choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon. Rehearsals will also begin for Vyacheslav Samodurov’s new Ondine.”

Furthermore, said Urin, Filin will play a part in the major tour of the Bolshoi Ballet to London next summer. “Sergei can be very useful as a specialist in future to the Bolshoi Theatre. We’re presently discussing in what capacity he can continue to work with the theatre. As soon as we define th eposition, we’ll announce it to the press,” Urin stated.

In an interview with TASS Sergei Filin said he had “no cause to be offended” by the Bolshoi Theatre directorate. “My contract was made in 2011 for five years, up to 17 March 2016. I signed it myself and I was entirely prepared for the term not to be extended. In today’s world that is quite normal, and I think it’s fair,” he said.

“I must move ahead, achieving more in my profession, doing new things. Besides, Vladimir Urin is offering me work in the Bolshoi Theatre. This is a very nice gesture,” he said.

Sergei Filin was appointed artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet in March 2011. Before that, from 2008 (after finishing his dancing career) he worked as artistic director of the ballet company of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre.

In January 2013 Filin was attacked, and acid was splashed in his face. He received burns to the face and eyes, and has undergone several dozen operations. To this day his sight is still recovering.

Speaking about the imminent personnel changes at the Bolshoi Theatre, Urin said that neither he nor Sergei Filin will have further comments to make in the near future.


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