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Dancers: Mariinsky Is Favoritist

Published: November 28, 2012 (Issue # 1737)


Members of the Mariinsky Theater ballet troupe have sent an open letter to Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, accusing the theater’s management of not paying their salaries in full and of creating a manipulative system of running the company in which critics of the bosses get restricted access to the stage, which in turn immediately affects their pay.

The petition’s authors spoke about the mass exodus of the most outstanding dancing talent from the company: Leonid Sarafanov defected to the Mikhailovsky Theater in 2010, and that same year, Mikhail Lobukhin left for the Bolshoi Theater, and Yevgenia Obraztsova joined him there one year later.

According to the dancers who signed the petition, soloists and members of the corps de ballet alike are fleeing the Mariinsky because of “ill-conceived planning and disrespect for the artists.”

“Tatyana Bessarabova, the aide to the head of the ballet division, has continually humiliated and insulted the artists, and numerous complaints about her behavior from coaches and dancers have failed to yield any results,” reads the open letter. “While some of the dancers have very tight performing schedules, others are left to starve and are not getting any engagements. It is not enough to be in good shape to win a role, you have to make yourself likeable to the management. This is pure manipulation.”

The Mariinsky’s managers countered the accusations by saying that the staff turnover at the company has remained stable, and argued that there is no cause for concern.

“Since 2009, the ballet division has welcomed 64 new members,” said Oksana Tokranova, head of the Mariinsky Theater press office.

“There is no disaster in soloists moving from company to company; rather, this is a natural process. At present, we have several foreign soloists with the company, including Keenan Kampa (U.S.), Xander Parish (U.K.) and Kim Kimin (South Korea). Importantly, since the start of the season, the troupe has seen 70 debuts of dancers in new roles — and we are talking about aspiring young performers as well as seasoned dancers.”

The Mariinsky management denies allegations about biased performance engagements.

“The issue of each dancer’s involvement in the repertoire and their participation in a tour is never decided singlehandedly by the head of the ballet division,” Tokranova said. “In every case, the situation is discussed with the coaches and is fully transparent.”

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