Bolshoi Ballet appoints interim director

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP - An acid attack on the artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet has shone the spotlight on the fierce competition for starring roles at the famed Russian dance company.

MOSCOW — The Bolshoi Ballet appointed a temporary artistic director Tuesday to oversee the company while Sergei Filin recovers from an acid attack that disfigured his face and injured his eyes.

Galina Stepanenko, a prize-winning dancer with the Bolshoi since 1990, was presented as the interim director at a meeting of the troupe Tuesday. Anatoly Iksanov, the general director, said she would guide the company until Filin, who was attacked late Thursday, returns to work. Stepanenko, a teacher and choreographer, began her career with the Moscow Classical Ballet in 1984.

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Doctors have said Filin, 42, faces at least six months of recovery, including rounds of plastic surgery. He had one eye operation last week, and two more procedures were scheduled for this week.

In an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper published Tuesday, Filin said that he was more worried about his sight than his looks and that at this point he can see very little.

“Since the acid was splashed from the right, my right eye is worse, and it will take a long time to treat it,” he told the reporter, Anastasia Pleshakova. “They promise to save the left eye.”

Sometimes he is able to see the fingers on his hand, he said: “This gives me optimism and hope.”

Filin said well-wishers have been urging him to fight, telling him to save his good looks. The reporter described him laughing at that. “I didn’t know that I was handsome,” he said, “although it’s nice to hear.”

The important thing, he said, is to be able to return to his work and normal life with his family.

“I will remain the same even if my appearance changes,” he said. “But I have three sons, and I want to be able to see them grow up.”

Police have not reported any leads in their investigation. A police official told the Interfax news agency Tuesday that a Bolshoi extra had been assaulted near a subway station Jan. 11 and his cellphone and wallet taken, in what sounded like a routine robbery.

The attack against Filin has been linked to rivalries within or around the ballet. Filin, who assigns roles and decides on repertoire, had been receiving threats, and he castigated himself for not having made them public.

He should have known that threats would inevitably lead to action, he said, adding that the worst he could have imagined would be publication of doctored photos showing him in an embarrassing situation.

“You can do whatever with modern technologies,” he said. “But I could never believe that there might be direct violence. And so I am blaming myself for this carelessness.”

 
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