Friday, November 8, 2013

Russian Ballet Controversy

Fired Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze gets controversial new job

Nikolai Tsiskaridze was fired from the Bolshoi ballet company in Russia. He was said to be associated with an acid attack on a fellow dancer, Sergei Filin. Although he had announced his retirement amidst his firing, he has not disappeared from the Russian ballet scene. He has recently been appointed to the prestigious position of rector of the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg. The Vaganova Academy originated from the ballet school funded by Empress Anna Ivanova in 1738. Thousands of children audition every year for entrance into the program and many of the graduates feed into the Mariinsky Ballet company. The training received at this academy is seen as the gold standard around the world.

Tsiskaridze's appointment to the position has been controversial because he doesn't have the extensive coaching experience nor the "legal education" that the academy ministry desired or his predecessors possessed. Vaganova likely appointed Tsiskaridze as rector because of the growing tension between the academy and Valery Gergiev. Gergiev, the general director of Mariinsky company, has been trying to place Vaganova Academy under the umbrella of the Mariinsky company.

The ballet companies in Russia have been rather troubled. Gergiev, some say, rule Mariinsky with an iron fist. The dancers work long hours, perform repetitious shows, and have extensive touring schedules to support the projects that Gergiev is most interested in. Not even those at the top-rated Vaganova Academy are free from scrutiny. A former lustrous Russian ballerina was removed from her positions with Vaganova as their artistic director. The Bolshoi are likely glad to no longer have Tsiskaridze in their portfolio, but it is still difficult to tell what impact he will have on Vaganova.

For me, music and dance have always been a fun past time. I would never imagine either being a channel for politics and scandal. I think one of the most important things the author mentions in the article is "Whoever prove to be the winners in this story, chances are it won't be Russian ballet. Once again the art form finds itself at the mercy of people's agendas, batted around by forces that have little to do with its own health and future." This is one of the issues that I have with presentational performances. When music and dance begin to formulate as presentational performances, I feel the originality and natural progressiveness of the art form is stifled. In Turino's readings, he mentioned that presentational performances allowed for artists to have ingenuity and showcase their individual talents. I think that sometimes the opposite can happen; performers will get "stuck in a rut." If they're having success in a certain performance type, they won't go outside the box because it could go horribly wrong for them. I think performances (especially presentational) need to be more about the music/dance and its progression rather than the individuals that perform it. 

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