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© Ismene Brown 1992-2022


3 MAR 16

Sergei Filin has finally confirmed that he will be staying at the Bolshoi Ballet, after his contract as artistic director expires in two weeks' time, heading a new choreographers workshop, as proposed by the theatre's chief Vladimir Urin last July.

The chilly relations between the two men were graphically displayed in the recently released British documentary Bolshoi Babylon, which was filmed in 2013. Urin gave Filin his first directorial job, heading the ballet at the Stanislavsky Theatre, which Urin managed. However, when Filin moved to head the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011, he severely offended his boss by the disruptive way he did it. This remained between them when Urin himself was headhunted to lead the Bolshoi Theatre in 2013 after the acid attack on Filin.

Last July Urin announced not only that he would not renew Filin's contract this March but would rewrite his job description for the next person, to increase its collective accountability and decrease its artistic autonomy. That position will be taken, as Filin's job expires on 17 March, by former Mariinsky Ballet company manager Makhar Vaziev. The report below from TASS - the government news service where the Bolshoi traditionally releases its plans - does not indicate how Filin and Vaziev will work together.

The impression was given in the Bolshoi Babylon documentary of Filin's personal unpopularity in the troupe, mitigating the sympathy he deserved for the mutilation and semi-blinding he suffered in the attack ordered by a disgruntled Bolshoi dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko (currently doing time with hard labour).

However Filin - a great favourite with London audiences when he danced under Alexei Ratmansky's exciting directorship in the mid-Noughties - appears to have strong support in the Bolshoi's governing bodies for his creative forcefulness and connections among today's world choreographers, and his ability to call on them to help the Bolshoi belatedly begin to develop its own stable of house choreographers. The Royal Ballet's success in this appears to be a model being followed, with Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon both stated as being on the Bolshoi's wish-list. Wheeldon's current triple bill at the Royal Ballet, including his flawed new creation Strapless, starring former Bolshoi star Natalia Osipova, has been proclaimed a joint enterprise with the Bolshoi, due to be performed in Moscow next year.

It's interesting that Filin, confirming his decision to stay, specifically invokes Ratmansky as the inspiration for the workshop scheme to be launched at the Bolshoi under him.

The inference of Bolshoi chief Urin's announcement is that while conciliation between the two men on a personal level may not be achievable, their business relations and mutual respect survive. It would also seem that the state-level forces who pull the strings at the Bolshoi have been impressed by the case made by Filin, and backed by Urin, that the celebrated Moscow company has much ground to catch up with the rest of world ballet.

Filin to head Bolshoi  choreographers nursery

TASS, 1 March 2016, 10:21

Sergei Filin will continue to work in the Bolshoi Theatre after the expiration of his contract as the ballet artistic director, heading a workshop for young choreographers, according to the Bolshoi Theatre’s general director Vladimir Urin.

Filin’s contract as artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet expires on 17 March 2016. From 18 March this position will be occupied by the former chief balletmaster of La Scala, Makhar Vaziev.

‘Sergei Filin will remain working at the Bolshoi Theatre, leading a workshop of young choreographers. This original creative apprenticeship should be the equivalent of the Youth opera programme which has operated successfully at the Bolshoi for the past few years, and obviously will yield positive results. The funds needed to set the initiative up will be allocated by the Bolshoi Theatre’s council of trustees,’ said Urin.

He added that he was very grateful to the trustees, who have supported the plan to set up the workshop and were ready to finance it via Trustee Board funds.

‘The Bolshoi Theatre of course can’t exist without its great traditions and without the classical repertoire. But I am deeply convinced that the theatre can develop and be alive only by creating new works of art. It’s no accident that we are constantly inviting contemporary choreographers to work with our artists. Such as Jean-Christophe Maillot, Wayne McGregor, Yuri Posokhov, Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leaon and Christopher Wheeldon. It seems to me supremely important to think of our tomorrows, of those choreographers who will work in the 21st century. And I am very glad that Sergei Filin has agreed to lead this initiative,’ he said.

Essential to nurture home choreographers

Sergei Filin confirmed his decision to TASS’s corrrespondent.

‘I have been associated all my professional life with the Bolshoi Theatre. Having been a ballet dancer myself for many years I know very well how important it is to have the chance to work with a choreographer who is creating a role specially on you. And while directing the Bolshoi Ballet for the past few years, I was constantly faced with the problem of inviting young choreographers.

'I think that in order for the art of ballet to develop fruitfully it is absolutely essential to nurture distinctive home choreographers with contemporary interests. Therefore the decision to establish within the Bolshoi Theatre a permanently active workshop for young choreographers, something along the lines of Alexei Ratmansky’s excellent initiative, appears to me to be extremely important,’ he said.

He said that the idea of creating the workshop is not only to give chances to wouldbe choreographers to have a start at producing ballet works or productions, but in order to to grow the talents of young choreographers over a special learning process within which there will be master-classes with well-known choreographers and apprenticeships with various companies.

Fundamental importance for the Bolshoi

‘This challenge seems to me of fundamental importance for the Bolshoi Theatre. I think the work of a sort of laboratory for young choreographers on these lines could be a very creative, interesting and necessary business,’ he said.

A graduate of the Moscow Choreographic School, Sergei Filin danced leading roles in the Bolshoi for around 20 years, and after retiring from performing in 2007 became head of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre’s ballet company.

He was then invited to become artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. His contract for the position was signed on 17 March 2011 for five years. During his time in post, Filin attracted such renowned choreographers as Roland Petit, Pierre Lacotte and John Neumeier to work with the Bolshoi, and it was under his aegis that Yuri Grigorovich resumed activity in the Bolshoi.

Russian reactions to Bolshoi Babylon film

Filin 'to head choreography scheme'

Vaziev appointed Bolshoi ballet head

' I am deeply convinced that the theatre can develop and be alive only by creating new works of art'

Filin to stay on at Bolshoi

Filin at the Bolshoi ©Mikhail Metzel/ ITAR- TASS