Fans rally for Bolshoi dancer fired in acid attack aftermath

Sat Jun 15, 2013 1:21pm EDT
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By Thomas Grove

MOSCOW (Reuters) - More than a hundred Russian ballet fans rallied in Moscow on Saturday in support of a top dancer who says he is being chased out of the Bolshoi Theatre due to disputes in the wake of an acid attack on its artistic director earlier this year.

The attack on Sergei Filin in January stunned Russians and exposed the bitter rivalries and behind-the-scenes power struggles at the theatre, a symbol of Russian culture since the 18th century.

Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko has confessed to plotting the attack on Filin, which left him with severe burns to his eyes and face, but both Filin and Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov have said they think others were involved.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who has been told to leave at the end of June, had clashed with Iksanov even before the attack, but their relationship soured sharply after Iksanov said the 39-year-old dancer might have acted as an instigator.

This month Tsiskaridze said he was being "hounded" out of the theatre.

"There is no dancer in Russia like Kolya!" said Larissa Pukhalskaya, 45. She said she had fallen in love with ballet after watching Tsiskaridze on television five years ago.

Supporters say the rivalries in the theatre stem from a clash between traditions who want to defend centuries of tradition and innovators such as Filin.

Tsiskaridze was one of the loudest critics of a multi-million dollar renovation of the theatre that ended last year.   Continued...

Supporters of sacked Bolshoi ballet star Nikolai Tsiskaridze hold placards demanding his return to the theatre during a sanctioned picket outside the Bolshoi in Moscow, June 15, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin