Bolshoi crisis deepens after star is threatened

Jan 30, 2013

'Blackmailed' prima ballerina Svetlana Lunkina to stay in Canada rather than return to Moscow

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THE crisis engulfing the Bolshoi Ballet has deepened after one of its prima ballerinas, Svetlana Lunkina, said she would stay in Canada rather than return home to Moscow after receiving unspecified threats.

Lunkina's decision comes as police continue the hunt for a masked assailant who threw sulphuric acid in the face of the Bolshoi's artistic director Sergei Filin outside his Moscow home earlier this month. Filin, who received serious chemical burns and may still lose his eyesight, has told Russian TV the assault was organised by people seeking to "satisfy their ambitions" or "to extinguish the pain of resentment", the Daily Telegraph reports.

Lunkina, 33, told the Russian newspaper Izvestia she had received "threats" and was "facing blackmail". She said: "We need to react to these threats. These people have no right to interfere in our private lives or my professional work."

The threats made against Lunkina are not believed to be connected to those made against Filin before he was attacked. Izvestia reports that Lunkina believes they may be linked to a film being made about the Tsarist-era dancer Matilda Kschessinskaya by Lunkina's husband, Vladislav Moskalyev. Lunkina was slated to play the highly coveted role of Kschessinskaya, but Moskalyev has become embroiled in a dispute with his business partner.

Lunkina, who has been in Canada for the past six months, has decided to remain in Toronto and teach at a dance studio. The Times reports that the ballerina, who has a seven-year-old son, was due to appear later this year in Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring but has been given leave of absence by the Bolshoi.

The attack on Filin and the threats against Lunkina have "exposed a dark side to the Bolshoi" that is far more serious than the usual artistic feuds, grandstanding and jealousy, The Times says. Dead cats have been thrown on stage, broken glass has been put in dancers' ballet pumps and performers have been "denounced" to the police.

Lunkina has said she does not think Filin's assailant is someone within the company. "She seems to think the culprit could be someone in artistic circles outside the Bolshoi," The Times reports.

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