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Bolshoi dancer admits ties to acid attack

Cast as Evil Genius in Bolshoi's 'Swan Lake,' Pavel Dmitrichenko performed in L.A. last year.

March 07, 2013|By David Ng and Khristina Narizhnaya, Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW — The acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin was shocking when it happened and turned even more bizarre when police said 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 soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko confessed to organizing the January attack, and police announced two other men confessed to carrying it out.

"I organized the attack, but not to the extent of the damage that happened," Dmitrichenko said to Russia's Channel One. The dancer planned the assault for "personal resentment related to his work," the police said, according to reports in the Russian media.

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Arsen Serobian, a Los Angeles-based dancer who has trained at the Bolshoi, said he met Dmitrichenko on a few occasions in Moscow and Los Angeles.

"He seemed like a nice guy. I'm surprised that he said he was a part of [the attack]," Serobian said.

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 has put an international spotlight on the bitter, deep-seated infighting and intrigue at the Bolshoi.

The motive remains murky, but a Bolshoi dancer, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Times that Dmitrichenko's girlfriend, Anzhelina Vorontsova, had a conflict with Filin after he did not give her a coveted role.

"She was very disappointed with the way Filin treated her, not giving her the roles that she wanted," the source said.

Vorontsova also appeared at the Music Center performance of "Swan Lake."

Filin, who suffered third-degree burns to his face as well as partial blindness, has said from the beginning that he believed the attack outside his home in Moscow was masterminded by someone within the Bolshoi.

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Dmitrichenko has played a number of key parts in company productions, including the menacing protagonist in Prokofiev's "Ivan the Terrible" and Rothbart in Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."

The dancer is being held in police custody. The other men involved in the attack were identified as Yuri Zarutski and Andrei Lipatov.

Police said that Zarutski threw concentrated sulfuric acid at Filin, 42, on the night of Jan. 17, searing his face, neck and eyes with third-degree burns, while Lipatov drove Zarutski to Filin's apartment building, then drove him away when he fled the crime scene. Zarutski has been previously convicted for beating someone to death, according to police.

Police said they found the suspects by tracing a suspiciously high number of cellphone calls made among the three on the night of the attack. The men were detained Tuesday in Moscow and the surrounding region after their apartments were searched, officials said.

The Bolshoi, whose history dates back to 1776, has long been beset by rumors of vicious infighting among its dancers.

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."

The atmosphere within the Bolshoi can often be strained for various reasons.

"The Bolshoi isn't just a place for art. It's also a place of government," said Serobian, who runs the online site Dance Channel TV.

He said dancers often advance with the company because of connections within the government or to company leaders, and this can cause animosity within the ranks. At the Bolshoi, "you know who is your friend or not," said Serobian.

Fierce competition is common within major dance organizations and was the subject of the 2010 movie "Black Swan," starring Natalie Portman, about a fictional New York dance company.

But an attack of the severity suffered by Filin is a rarity.

Filin has had several surgical procedures to restore his eyesight.

Filin had told Segal he saw "Swan Lake" in terms of "internal conflicts between ideal love, reality and the imperfections of human nature."

In his 2012 story, 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."

david.ng@latimes.com

Ng reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Narizhnaya from Moscow. Sergei L. Loiko contributed to this report in Moscow.

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