Everything Is Beautiful At The Ballet

In our current culture we are fascinated with ourselves. Posting photos of our food on Instagram (“Fried green tomatoes! Who am I?!”). Divulging the minutiae of our lives on Facebook (“Gym before work!* Killing it?!”). Checking in to our locations on Four Square (“NY Public Library! Reading?!”). We think we are so interesting, with our panda blogs and our Twitters. You guys, we are nothing.Be honest

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article about the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet is older than our country. It was founded months before the signing of our Declaration of Independence; it has survived three fires, one brought on by Napoleon’s invasion of Moscow. Compared to the Bolshoi Ballet’s history our Timelines are bare.

As with any centuries-old Russian institution, the Bolshoi Ballet is plagued with intrigue and plots to usurp current leadership. Most recently, in the midst of opening a production of La Bayadere (with which, because it is neither The Nutcracker nor was it featured in Black Swan, I and most Americans are unfamiliar) a masked assailant threw a jar of acid into the artistic director, Sergei Filin’s face just after a gala at the Moscow Art Theater, a theater founded by Stanislavsky, the father of method acting.

Image features Filin, not Stanislavsky.

Image features Filin, not Stanislavsky.

The lead suspect is a principle dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, Nikolai Tsiskaridze who is both being investigated for flinging the aforementioned acid and rehearsing for an upcoming performance in Swan Lake. The very busy Tsiskaridze believes the attack was carried out by a jealous lover not a professional rival because of “well-known precedents” of “analogous crimes in our country.” Flinging acid on your lover is to Russia as…?

I’m torn on this story, because on one hand it is thrilling to read about a society that takes its art so seriously. In America, the arts are something you do until you find a “real job” according to most older men who ask what I do and then correct me to say “Actress” instead of “Actor” when I tell them. People in Russia take ballet so seriously that this past November, a “dozen influential figures” petitioned Russian President Vladimir Putin to put Sergei Filin aside and name Nikolai Tsiskaridze the new artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet.

On the other hand, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than a masked assailant throwing acid in my face. Maybe the cartoon wolf from Peter and the Wolf, but it’s a close race. Remember how dramatic it was in Center Stage when Cooper started his own dance company right under Jonathan’s nose? Imagine if he’d thrown acid at it instead.** That’s life at the #BolshoiBallet.

Bolshoi Ballet

*I meant to go to the gym before work today and I actually was going to tweet about it, but then I slept in instead so I didn’t tweet it.

**For the record, Sergei Filin is recuperating and will get his sight back, though it will be six months of grueling rehab. He’s sending production notes from his bed and is being an all-around badass about the whole thing, “I told him [a priest] that I forgive everyone, and let God judge them, for man is weak,” he said. “I forgive everyone who is involved in this. But if we’re talking about the earthly world, then we have investigative bodies, undoubtedly we have excellent professionals, and quite soon I think we will have answers to the questions which you are asking me now.”


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