March 20 (Bloomberg) -- The Bolshoi ballet’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, dismissed as “nonsense and dirt” claims by ex-ballerina Anastasia Volochkova that dancers were pimped out to wealthy patrons as infighting escalated.
Volochkova appeared on a show on state TV aired at the weekend alongside Iksanov’s rival, the ballet’s principal dancer, Nikolai Tsiskaridze. She said the practice was now “a lot worse” than when she was fired from the theater 10 years ago. The two were questioned by presenters Tina Kandelaki and Margarita Simonian.
Iksanov also hit out at Tsiskaridze, who on the same show said he was ready to take the general director’s job. Speaking during a press conference held yesterday at the Bolshoi building in Moscow, Iksanov called on Tsiskaridze to resign from the ballet, because he can’t fire him
A battle for control of Russia’s most famous theater, which was founded in 1776 by Catherine the Great, has become public since an acid attack in January on the theater’s artistic director, with Georgian-born Tsiskaridze and Iksanov trading accusations.
Volochkova, who has previously said that dancers were pimped out as escorts at oligarch parties and was fired in 2003 for being overweight, repeated those claims.
“Girls are invited each in turn by the administrator, who explains that they are going to a party, with dinner and a follow-up, in bed and going all the way,” the ex-ballerina said on NTV’s March 17 program. Asked whom the dancers had to sleep with, she replied: “With certain oligarchs, some of them are members of the board of trustees (of the Bolshoi) or just the person organizing the party.”
Leading dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was detained earlier this month after confessing to organizing the Jan. 17 attack that damaged the face and eyes of the theater’s artistic director Sergei Filin. He denied any intention to use acid in the assault. Two other men admitted to being the driver and the assailant and all three remain in custody.
Investigators last month cited rivalries at the Bolshoi as probable motives for the crime, particularly between supporters of Filin and of Tsiskaridze, the principal dancer.
More than 300 members of the Bolshoi ballet have come out in defense of Dmitrichenko. In an open letter to President Vladimir Putin and the media last week, they said the idea that the soloist was behind the crime was “absurd.”
Iksanov last week said he didn’t believe that Dmitrichenko was the mastermind of the acid attack and that another person ordered the assault.
Tsiskaridze has repeatedly denied involvement in the attack, most recently on the NTV show on March 17. He has accused Filin of seeking to turn one of his pupils against him in December by offering her a part in Swan Lake if she stopped taking lessons with him, a proposal he says that she refused.
Filin, who is in Germany for further treatment, said last week he suspects a “very narrow circle of people” of being behind the attack, including Dmitrichenko.
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