A Terrible Day for Ballet

January 17, 2013

Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin was attacked near his home last night by a masked man who threw acid on Filin’s face. The director is suffering from third-degree burns that will require extensive plastic surgery, and sources from the company say that he may also lose his eyesight.

Some are speculating that the attack on Filin is linked to company politics, particularly his casting decisions. For those of us hearing the news in the U.S., that sounds as surreal as it does terrifying. But internal affairs at the Bolshoi are notoriously turbulent, and because the company is so fiercely loved by its Moscow patrons, stakes are high. Infighting is common and vicious. (If you’d like to find out more about the conflicts rumored to have spurred this attack, the New York Times and Washington Post have good summaries.) Last night’s incident was apparently preceded by a series of scary threats to Filin, including harassing phone calls and tire slashing.

Reports are that Filin is about to be flown to Brussels to receive treatment at a special burn clinic. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family. And we hope, too, that the ballet world will someday be as beautiful behind the scenes as it is onstage.