Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Balanchine vs. Bolshoi, Soviet ballet dancers, acid

On January 17 of this year, Bolshoi Ballet soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko arranged a physical attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director -- out of resentment. Result: the thug who took Dmitrichenko's money and did the deed exceeded expectations: he critically burned Filin's face, eyes, and neck with concentrated sulfuric acid.
 
Criminal vengeance? In a ballet company?
 
Such acts as Dimitrencho's are not merely impulsive. They are spawned in a climate. Within the climate of the Bolshoi Ballet, rivalry is extremely intense. Personal attacks at lesser levels than physical assault keep occurring. Dancers do such things as plant a preset alarm clock in an auditorium, so that just when a rival dancer is coming to the best moments of a solo, the alarm sounds and the audience heads turn away from the stage (NPR, Morning Edition, 7 March 2013). Resentment and envy are common and intense.
 
All of us experience thoughts of wrong behavior. We are endangered morally if our daily climate fosters those thoughts, which the Bolshoi climate appears to do.
 
How can I help comparing the Bolshoi climate to Balanchine and the low-stress climate he generated at New York City Ballet? Did his dancers feel rivalry and resentment over casting? Of course! All humans experience those feelings, especially when competing so intensely to achieve a desired end. But Balanchine consciously sought to foster a genial atmosphere. If dancers started arguments in rehearsal, he would say, "There will be no public drama," or if the dispute concerned passages of choreography, he would say, "Whatever it was before, will now be this," and settle the matter on the spot. He and his staff met personally with discontented dancers. They gave dancers financial help, they listened to dancers' personal problems, and they treated the dancers and each other with persistent, intentional respect. Bolshoi-type acts of rivalry would be unthinkable in Balanchine's New York City Ballet. That company's longstanding survival can be credited, at least in part, to the atmosphere of mutual helpfulness and fairness under which it was founded.
 
 
 
 

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