Bolshoi ballet chief has surgery after acid attack
FILE - In this Tuesday, July 18, 2000 file photo, Sergei Filin as Albrecht and Nina Ananiashvili as Giselle perform a tragic scene during a dress rehearsal of the Bolshoi Ballet's United States premiere of "Giselle" at The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, in New York. Filin was attacked in Moscow on Thursday night, Jan. 17, 2013, by an unknown person who splashed acid onto his face. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)
MOSCOW (AP) — An acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet has shone the spotlight on the fierce "Black Swan" -like competition for starring roles at the famed Russian dance company.
The attack on Sergei Filin could be in retaliation for his selection of certain dancers over others for the prized roles, his colleagues said Friday. They expressed fears that Filin, a 42-year-old former Bolshoi star, could be left partially blind after a masked assailant threw acid in his face as he returned home in Moscow late Thursday.
Filin suffered third-degree burns on his face and underwent eye surgery Friday evening to try to save his sight, Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said. Doctors said his right eye was badly burned and it would not be clear for days whether the operation was a success.
The Bolshoi Theater is one of Russia's premier cultural institutions, best known for "Swan Lake" and the other grand classical ballets that grace its Moscow stage. But backstage, the ballet company has been troubled by deep intrigue and infighting that have led to the departure of several artistic directors over the last few years.
The Bolshoi's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said he believes the attack was linked to Filin's work.
"He is a man of principle and never compromised," Iksanov said on Channel One state television. "If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down."
The fierce competition for roles in classical ballet was highlighted in the 2010 Oscar-winning film "Black Swan." In the psychological thriller, dancers played by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis vie to prove to the artistic director that only they should be chosen to perform as the sensual Black Swan.
Anastasia Volochkova, a former Bolshoi ballerina who danced with Filin, described a "terrible, wild fight" for roles at the Bolshoi.
FILE - In this Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, Sergei Filin, center, poses with members of the Bolshoi Theater company involved in the Sleeping Beauty ballet, after a rehearsal, in the Bolshoi Theater that underwent renovation, in Moscow, Russia. A Moscow police said Friday, Jan. 18, 2013, that Filin, an artistic director at the legendary Bolshoi Theater, was attacked Thursday night by a man who splashed acid onto his face as the 43-year-old former dancer came out of his car outside his home in central Moscow. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel, File)
"The cruelty of the ballet world is astoundingly pathological," Volochkova said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio.
She said Filin had done nothing to deserve such an attack. "Of course, this position is sweet," the former ballerina said. "The director of the ballet decides everything: the amount of grants given to every artist, or perhaps not given, who will dance which roles and who will not dance them."