A scandal at the Bolshoi Ballet.
(David Remnick’s article appeared in The New Yorker, 3/18.)
Sergei Yurevich Filin, a man of early middle age and improbable beauty, sat behind the wheel of his car on a winter night driving toward home. It was 10 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of Moscow, a light snow in the air, snow on the rooftops, snow piled up in the lanes. Traffic was thick but brisk. Nearby, spotlights illuminated the Kremlin towers. Laughing skaters sliced along a vast rink set up for the season on Red Square. An immense white inflatable dome encased Lenin’s Tomb, sealing it off for structural repairs. Muscovites joked that the eternal resting place of their discredited forefather now looked like Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4.
When Filin was in his twenties and thirties, he had been a principal dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet. He performed the glamour roles: Count Albrecht, in “Giselle”; the princes in “The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella,” “Swan Lake,” and “The Sleeping Beauty.” He was not the strongest dancer—by the time he was thirty, his jumps were low, his turnout was vague—but, with his pointed chin and light eyes, he retained a dashing presence. He was an effective mime. When Giselle would go into her mad scene, Filin had a way of putting his hands lightly to his temples as if to signal to the audience that he required three aspirin and a glass of water. He was forty-two years old now, but his face was still unlined, his hair shaggy in a teen-idol sort of way. His gaze was, it always seemed, confiding and unworried—despite the great change in his life. Nearly two years earlier, he had become the Bolshoi’s khudruk, its artistic director. He did not pretend to dictate policy in the Bolshevik style of Yuri Grigorovich, an imperious second-rater who ruled the company by decree for three decades, from
1964 to 1995. But Filin did control the crucial matters of scheduling, casting, promotion, and repertoire. The fortunes of more than two hundred dancers—many of them in a permanent state of anxiety about their mayfly careers—rested with him, with his judgments and his caprices.
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