Bolshoi Ballet may sue one of its dancers

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MOSCOW -- The Bolshoi Ballet administration threatened to file a lawsuit against dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze on Friday after he called for the theater's top executives to be dismissed over its response to the Jan. 17 acid attack on the ballet's artistic director, Sergei Filin.

Investigators have yet to name any suspects, but an unnamed police official told the Interfax news agency on Friday that the list included dancers and other members of the ballet company. After three weeks of speculation about who might have targeted Mr. Filin, a long-standing feud between Mr. Tsiskaridze and the theater's general director, Anatoly Iksanov, has become public. Each has stated that the other should leave the Bolshoi for the good of the institution and to avoid further damage to its storied reputation.

Mr. Tsiskaridze made that assertion in an interview published on Wednesday by the BBC's Russian service. He questioned whether Mr. Filin had actually been attacked with acid and said that Bolshoi administrators had immediately implicated him, adding, "It's persecution, and it's all being done not against Sergei; it's all being done against me."

Katerina Novikova, the theater's spokeswoman, told the RIA Novosti news agency that the Bolshoi's legal team was exploring the possibility of suing Mr. Tsiskaridze. Bad blood between him and Bolshoi executives dates back many years. Mr. Tsiskaridze, 39, has been passed over repeatedly for administrative posts as he has neared the end of his career onstage, and he has publicly criticized the theater's management.

In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Iksanov said that Russian law granted dancers lifetime tenure and that he had no legal grounds to let go of Mr. Tsiskaridze. "He can stay at the theater until he is 100," he said. But he added that he would like Mr. Tsiskaridze to leave voluntarily.

Mr. Tsiskaridze was among the first to be questioned by investigators after the attack on Mr. Filin, and he refused to undergo a lie detector test. (He said he was one of a number of artists to do so.) He said investigators had not returned to him since that first conversation.

Mr. Iksanov has said he does not suspect Mr. Tsiskaridze of involvement in the acid attack but that his open defiance and criticism of the theater had created a poisonous atmosphere that encouraged the perpetrator.

Mr. Tsiskaridze said he believed that Russian officials should replace the ballet's leadership.

"When an official struggles against an artist, and the artist is not guilty, the official has to leave," he said in a telephone interview. "People pay for the tickets not to look at the official, but at the artist. This is why, when there is a choice between the official and the artist, it's clear to everyone who has to leave."

He also repeated his skepticism that Mr. Filin had actually been splashed with acid, saying there was no evidence of the awful burns you would expect in such a crime.

"The point is that acid is a very dangerous thing, and if you have studied chemistry or read about other incidents of this kind, you must know that there are always horrible consequences, and right away he was shown with his face uncovered," he said. "If a person is speaking and giving interviews right away, it all looks very strange."

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