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New Bolshoi ballet chief aims to focus on dance, not drama

'We think we are not just any dance company but a state institution that represents Russia,' said new Bolshoi ballet chief Makhar Vaziev. Photograph: (Others)

AFP Moscow, Russia Jul 08, 2016, 05.22 AM (IST)
After years of off-stage drama and scandal that has cast a shadow over Russia's famed Bolshoi ballet troupe, new dance chief Makhar Vaziev is looking to get back to its roots.

"The Bolshoi ballet is classical dance before all else," Vaziev told journalists recently at his first press conference.

Vaziev, 54, is currently gearing up for his first season as in charge of the scandal-hit company after leaving his post as ballet chief at Milan's La Scala last year to return to his homeland.

The former dancer - who also performed with and then headed the rival troupe at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg - was drafted in to help draw a curtain on the controversial reign of his predecessor Sergei Filin.

In 2013, assailants doused Filin with acid in an attack that left him scarred and laid bare the seething rifts and rivalries going on behind the Bolshoi's iconic neoclassical facade in Moscow.

Soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko was jailed after a trial that disclosed bitter backstage competition and jaw-dropping allegations that Filin handed out roles in exchange for money and sexual favours.

When Filin's contract expired this year the decision by director Vladimir Urin not to extend it and appoint instead the white-haired Vaziev came as little surprise.

Now both men at the top of the Bolshoi are determined to make the troupe's name known again for all the right reasons.

"We share the same vision of dance," Vaziev said, sitting next to Urin.

"We think we are not just any dance company but a state institution that represents Russia."

Urin, who was reported to have a fraught relationship with Filin, agreed and said the focus was on performing at home.

"We often refuse offers to go and dance abroad. We want to dance in Russia, that is our objective, that is what the Russian state pays us to do," he said.

For the upcoming season which starts in September, Vaziev has inherited the repertoire planned by his predecessor.

But the newcomer is still looking to put his own stamp on the company by handing major roles to some up-and-coming dancers, having helped kick-start the careers of major stars such as Diana Vishneva and Svetlana Zakharova during his time at the Mariinsky.

He is also looking to bring back some of the Russian classics and from January 2017 will put on some of the stagings of Yury Grigorovich, the patriarch of choreography in the country.

"The great masters passed through the Bolshoi and we have to know and respect that history and be at ease with it," he said.

As for the work of his predecessor, Vaziev diplomatically refused to comment on Filin's turbulent time in charge.

One thing he says he is sure of is that the Bolshoi "will not be the same".

(AFP)
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