HACKED email accounts, threatening messages, slashed tyres and now – an acid attack.
Welcome to the beautiful world of ballet – Russian style.
There can be no right-minded person who hasn’t been dumb-founded by the fate of Sergei Filin.
Once a feted principal dancer, now artistic director of one of the world’s most famous ballet companies, the Bolshoi in Moscow, Sergei Filin lies in a hospital bed probably wondering whether he will ever see properly again.
The 42-year-old was walking home one night last week when someone called out his name. He turned and a masked attacker threw sulphuric acid in his face.
His face is badly burned, his eyes damaged. He’s had surgery but there is no firm news yet of the outcome.
Much is heard of the Mafia type hold that organised criminal gangs have over certain parts of the business world in Russia.
But who would have expected such a level of violence from within a ballet company?
For that is what Sergei Filin and the management of the Bolshoi are saying. That his attacker comes “from within.”
In-fighting and politics are nothing new at the Bolshoi.
There have long been artistic clashes over the company once seen as a symbol of Tsarist extravagance and later by the Politburo as the Soviet Union’s flagship cultural enterprise.
Little wonder then that there was increasingly bitter tension inside the company between those who wanted to maintain its conservative approach and those who felt the Bolshoi needed to update its repertoire.
Sergei Filin had been seen as a peace-maker. As a dancer who had come up through the ranks of this 200 strong company, who could be better placed to understand the under-currents and the politics.
He apparently did and was seen initially as the man who could bridge the gaps between those who took a traditional viewpoint and the modernisers, between the old and the new.
But it seems that even his shaping of a repertoire to include both classics and newer works didn’t satisfy some. Personal rivalries, it seems, are alive and dangerous in some big companies.
Even as Filin announced promotions among the hugely competitive performers at the Bolshoi, there were more rumblings that all was not well.
Though the stories have been widely reported, it is still hard to believe that a world renowned ballet company would preside over a climate where glass is said to have been left in the toes of pointe shoes, a too vocal dancer sacked for being too heavy and others threatened with the loss of their jobs if they didn’t fall into line.
After the revelations surrounding Sergei Filin, and the threats he is said to have endured, who could now but wonder?
What price art if professional jealousies, rivalries, factionism call it what you will, are shown to be the motivation for attacking another human being in this way.
There cannot be anyone who wouldn’t want to see this poisonous side of a beautiful art form rooted out if that is indeed what lies behind one of the most extraordinary events to happen in the dance world for decades.