In November 2016, former principal dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko entered the Bolshoi Ballet studios in Moscow to begin retraining for the stage. He had recently been released from prison for instigating an attack on his artistic director, Sergey Filin, in January 2013. Dmitrichenko’s plan went awry when his henchman, Yuri Zarutsky, decided to throw battery acid in Filin’s face, virtually blinding him. This act horrified the international ballet world and the public, and shed a new light on this famous but often troubled institution. After many operations, Filin recovered his sight in one eye, but lost his directorship. He now runs a choreographic workshop at the Bolshoi.
The irony that Dmitrichenko excelled as the murderous tsar in Ivan the Terrible is not lost on American musicologist Simon Morrison in Bolshoi Confidential: Secrets of the Russian ballet from the rule of the tsars to today (coincidentally released in November). Morrison sees Dmitrichenko and Zarutsky’s crimes not as rarities, but consistent with the rivalries, politics, and vexatious bureaucracies that have riven the Bolshoi Theatre since Catherine the Great fostered ballet in Moscow in 1806.