Twist in Acid-Throwing Russian Ballet Scandal Reveals New Heroes & Villains

On Tuesday, Moscow police detained a dancer from inside the Bolshoi company, who was allegedly in charge of ordering the hit. Now this gets even more interesting. Let's take a look at the players in a sordid tale of disfiguration and pointe shoes.

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It's a story ripped out of a true crime novel: the artistic director of the legendary Bolshoi Ballet is doused with acid, and then, on Tuesday, Moscow police detain a dancer from inside company, who was allegedly in charge of ordering the hit. Now this gets even more interesting. Let's take a look at the players in a sordid tale of disfiguration and pointe shoes.

The Villain: Pavel Dmitrichenko

Now that he's been detained, Dmitrichenko is clearly the man at the center of all of this. Per the Internet Ballet Database, Dmitrichenko graduated from the Moscow Ballet Academy and joined the Bolshoi in 2002, receiving a diploma at the International Ballet Competition in Rome in 2004. According to the New York Times he is a big proponent of classical ballet, urging the company away from the more modern pieces that they do. In a Russian interview, around the time he was playing Ivan the Terrible, Dmitrichenko said: "...recently there was a tendency to show the one-act plotless ballet, that is, a set of movements to the music. This may be modern, but not interesting to most viewers."

In retrospect it's perhaps ironic that the Guardian reports that Dmitrichenko had "made a name for himself by dancing the role of villains, including the role of tsar Ivan the Terrible in the ballet of the same name and the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart in Swan Lake." It hasn't slipped by many: he was asked about his tendency for villainous roles in a Russian interview. In fact, stories about him today are accompanied by photos of him performing as Ivan the Terrible.

Here's a clip of Dmitrichenko dancing in a production of Spartacus.

Dmitrichenko was on the company's grants commission and clashed with Filin over money. He reportedly ordered the acid attack that was carried out by Yuri Zarutsky and Andrei Lipatov. The BBC reports it is not clear whether they are connected to the ballet.

The Victim: Sergei Filin 

Filin, the company's artistic director, was attacked in January, and long insisted that the crime had to do with internal strife within the company. According to the Daily Beast, he was a highly prized dancer in the company in the 1990s, but had to leave dancing after a hip injury.

As artistic director Filin made bold choices, like bringing American Ballet Theater's David Hallberg on as a principal. But it is a cutthroat world, the world of ballet is. Unrelated to the attack, Filin once told an interviewer of his own experience with an artistic director: "But usually, you know, dancers never like the artistic director. I don’t know the dancers who are happy with their artistic director." When the interviewer said, but he is one now, he added: "My attitude is with a great amount of irony and humor. This is my approach."

Here's Filin dancing in better days:

And now:

The Girlfriend: Anzhelina Vorontsova

Vorontsova, a young soloist, was reportedly in a relationship with Dmitrichenko. She joined the Bolshoi in 2009, and according to the Times her "supporters say Mr. Filin has unfairly denied her starring roles because of feuding at the theater, something theater officials deny." In a Russian interview she commented that she liked Black Swan, but "Natalie Portman dances are not very good. She has no ballet proportions."

Here she dances The Nutcracker:

The Informer: Nikolai Tsiskaridze

Tsiskaridze provided much of the gossipy sourcing for the latest Times report, but he himself was a suspect at one point. Per a Times report, Tsiskaridze was one of the first to be questioned following the attack, and refused to undergo a lie detector test. Later, the Bolshoi threatened to sue him after he accused them of unfairly attacking him. The ballet's general director said that Tsiskaridze, was not the cause of the attack but provoked it: "I don't blame that particular crime on him, but I'm accusing Nikolai of escalating the situation at the theater, of putting psychological pressure on the theater's staff and management, on Filin, on myself and teachers."

He is one of the Bolshoi's principal dancers, and a frequent award winner, and also coaches Vorontsova, according to the AP.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.