The acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin was shocking when it happened and turned even more bizarre when it elicited a confession from a Bolshoi dancer known for playing the Evil Genius in one of the most beloved ballets of all, "Swan Lake."
Details came to light early Wednesday when Bolshoi principal dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko confessed to organizing the January attack, while two other men confessed to carrying it out, according to a report by Khristina Narizhnaya of The Times' Moscow bureau.
"I organized the attack, but not to the extent of the damage that happened," Dmitrichenko said to Russian news Channel One. The dancer planned the assault for "personal resentment related to his work," the police said, according to reports in the Russian media.
It turns out that Dmitrichenko danced as the Evil Genius in Los Angeles last year when the Bolshoi performed "Swan Lake" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The venerable company hadn't been at the Music Center for more than a decade and attracted nearly sold-out performances and enthusiastic audiences for five performances in June.
The Times reviewer Laura Bleiberg had qualms about some of the performances on opening night but wrote "Other soloists fared better, including the high-flying and persuasively evil Pavel Dmitrichenko as the Evil Genius (a.k.a. Rothbart)."
Overall, Bleiberg wrote: "It hasn't, however, been a smooth trajectory for this infamously fractious troupe, and that too was reflected in the performance."
The attack put an international spotlight on bitter, deep-seated infighting and intrigue at the Bolshoi. Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, is reported to have had a conflict with Filin because he didn't assign her the roles she wanted, Narizhnaya reported.
Before the company's appearance in Los Angeles, former Times dance critic Lewis Segal reported on unhappiness within the company.
"The administration doesn't want any stars," dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze told Segal. "They want people who can be substituted for anyone else and nobody will notice the difference. To them, it doesn't matter who dances because the house will always be full."
Filin had told Segal he saw "Swan Lake" in terms of "internal conflicts between ideal love, reality and the imperfections of human nature."
Segal came to a sanguine conclusion:
"Those internal conflicts and imperfections are very, very evident in the reality of the Bolshoi Ballet 2012. But there's still plenty of hope for ideal love."