Bolshoi Babylon review – breaking pointe at the ballet company

This enthralling documentary reveals the extraordinary upheavals at the Bolshoi Ballet as the tip of Russia’s rage iceberg

One morning in 2013, Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin had acid thrown in his face in the street by a masked attacker. While he endured numerous operations to save his sight and minimise scarring, Moscow police secured a confession from another dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, who admitted coveting Filin’s job and paying a couple of thugs to beat him up, although he denied wanting or ordering anything as horrible as acid. Case closed? Not at all. This fascinating documentary suggests the attack was a collective pathological symptom: the tip of modern Russia’s rage iceberg.

The Bolshoi (Russian for “big”) has always been a colossal monolith of patriotic importance and cultural prestige, yet behind its dancers’ clenched poise there is suppressed agony. Budgetary and artistic decisions are ratified by unseen Kremlin bureaucrats and directors’ casting prerogatives until recently gave them almost Stalinist powers to change dancers’ lives on a whim. This, added to the fact that decades of corruption have left Russians with a profound mistrust of authority anyway, made Filin’s position uniquely dangerous.

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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