Gonzalez.ricar 2009-10-04 11:11:07
Bolshoi Decides It’s Over Before ‘Fat’ Lady Dances
By SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY
MOSCOW, Sept. 16 One of Russia’s best-known ballerinas and
post-Communist celebrities was fired today by the Bolshoi Theater
after a war of insults over whether she was fit for a pas de deux.
Theater officials are charging the ballerina, Anastasia Volochkova,
with one of ballet’s deadly sins: they say she has become too fat.
“She is heavy for a ballerina; she is hard to lift,” Katerina
Novikova, the theater’s spokeswoman, said in an interview on Monday.
Ms. Volochkova, 27, spoke of mysterious forces working against her
she wouldn’t identify them and also said theater administrators,
working on behalf of those forces, did not like her and had plotted to
push her out. She says she is in top form, weighing in at 109 pounds
and following a strict diet.
“I don’t eat ice cream now,” said Ms. Volochkova, who once told a
Russian interviewer that she “adores” it. “I eat spinach leaves and
“This is a planned conspiracy against me,” she said of the dispute,
which has enthralled the Russian press and has involved security
guards, a missing dance partner and publicity machines working
overtime. Today, after her dismissal, she and her lawyer said they
would sue the Bolshoi over her contract, which expired on June 30. The
Bolshoi offered an extension to Dec. 31, but she demanded a year’s
The Russian press has been reporting that the blonde ballerina, who
has the looks of a fashion model and behaves like a star, is nearly 6
feet tall, making her even more unwieldy. Ms. Volochkova said she is 5
feet 7 inches. “She is a modern young woman; she wears heels,” her
publicist, Gela Naminova, said, explaining the discrepancy.
The charges have flown so fast and furiously that Ms. Volochkova,
after much negotiation, agreed to have her height measured today by
The New York Times. She is, in fact, 5 feet 6 inches tall. “The
situation with the Bolshoi is not about height or weight,” she said, a
chic pink scarf wrapped around her neck, and on the verge of tears.
“Height and weight are not the test of a great ballerina.”
Although she has her fervent fans, her detractors among critics and
the public consider her an outsider at the Bolshoi who influenced the
theater’s administration with the financial support she attracted to
the company from her admirers. She was, for instance, loudly booed
last year inside the Bolshoi Theater when she won a top prize at an
international ballet competition.
Among Ms. Volochkova’s recent supporters in Moscow has been Suleiman
Kerimov, an executive with a major oil company, Nafta-Moskva.
Recently, corporate sponsors for her solo performances have included
companies like Gazprom, the natural gas monopoly. She has also been
accused of difficult, divalike behavior and has attracted publicity
for her close friendships with powerful men, including the actor Jim
“It’s not just her physiological state,” said Ms. Novikova, the
Bolshoi spokeswoman. “It’s her character as well. She has her own
dressing room. She is not greatly respected. Not one other soloist is
in the dressing room with her.” Ms. Volochkova denied that there was a
character problem and said she had repeatedly asked to share space
with other soloists.
Commenting on the firing today, Ms. Novikova said that there was no
standard weight for ballerinas but that Ms. Volochkova “is bigger than
others.” She said one problem was a question of skill.
“Someone can weigh 66 pounds and jump badly and be hard to pick up,”
she said. “Another person can weigh a lot, but her technique makes her
easier to lift.”
Ms. Novikova said on Monday that all of the Bolshoi’s male dancers
except Nikolai Tsiskaridze had refused to dance with Ms. Volochkova
and that he agreed to partner her in “Raymonda” only because there are
few high lifts.
“Ballerinas dance en pointe so even a 5-foot-9-inch ballerina looks
tall next to me,” said Mr. Tsiskaridze, who is 6 feet tall. “It’s
always attractive when a male dancer is bigger than a woman. I told
Anastasia we wouldn’t look good together dancing `Giselle.’ ”
Larissa Abyzova, a dance critic who teaches at the Vaganova Academy in
St. Petersburg, said, “Ballerinas are getting taller,” rattling off a
list. She allowed that only petite ballerinas can dance some parts and
said it was increasingly difficult to create traditionally
proportioned duets, but she said Ms. Volochkova had no problems with
size at the Kirov, where she danced in the 1990’s.
“I can only say that Moscow male dancers are bad at duets,” she said.
“Here she danced with everyone, no one was hurt and no one refused.”
Some press accounts reported that Bolshoi officials had said Ms.
Volochkova’s partner, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, was hospitalized for
treatment of injuries sustained while dancing with her. Ms. Novikova,
the Bolshoi spokeswoman, said he had quit the troupe for health
reasons but said she did not know where he is or how to reach him.
Ms. Volochkova trained at the Vaganova Academy and began her career
with the Kirov Ballet. She was first invited to join the Bolshoi in
1998 by the director, Vladimir Vasilyev, with whom she had a falling
out, then she returned at the request of Yuri Grigorovich, for his
staging of “Swan Lake” in 2001.
Ms. Volochkova has made a name for herself outside of the Bolshoi,
staging solo performances that have led many critics to label her a
pop star rather than a classical ballerina, but she says she wants to
experiment in dance and that many of her performances are for charity.
Ms. Volochkova has performed in the United States with both the Kirov
Ballet and the Bolshoi since 1995 to good reviews.
The current dispute unfolded when she was scheduled to perform “Swan
Lake” on Sept. 5. She said she was informed by phone on the the night
before that she had been replaced.
On the night of the performance, she joined a group of fans standing
outside the theater holding placards bearing her name. She said many
of the fans were rounded up in a bus and some were hit by Bolshoi
security guards as riot police officers looked on. A Bolshoi
spokewsoman said nothing improper had occurred.
“It turns out the Bolshoi’s security guards are not there to protect
from terrorists, but from fans,” Ms. Volochkova said.
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