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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Outsiders Hail Bolshoi Decree, Insiders Mute

Directors at the Bolshoi Theater were lying low Thursday, refusing to comment on the presidential decree introducing employment contracts at the opera and ballet company.


Bolshoi spokesman Alexander Kolesnikov said neither the general director, Vladimir Kokonin, nor the artistic director, Yury Grigorovich, would comment until the text of the decree had been published in the official Russian press.


"We do not have the decree, it has not been published, only commented on. No one will talk to the press until it has been published," he said Thursday.


The decree, announced in the official organ Rossiiskiye Vesti on Wednesday and on Radio Moscow on Thursday, lays down new rules for all artistic staff, including the directors, to be selected on a competitive and contractual basis.


It is being greeted across the ballet and opera world as the first step in a complete change of the leadership at the Bolshoi, signalling the ousting of the authoritarian choreographer Grigorovich.


Grigorovich has been criticized for ruling the ballet company in an arbitrary and cruel fashion, showing little concern for dancers' well-being and stifling young talent by promoting favorites and keeping back natural leaders.


"What happened with bullets and tanks at the White House last year is happening at the Bolshoi now," said Veronyka Bodnarec, producer of several award-winning films tracking the path of perestroika in the late 80s, who has followed the Bolshoi saga closely.


Vladimir Vasiliev, a former Bolshoi principal and an international ballet star, said the decree would undoubtedly change things for the better, but added that it was ten years too late, a reference to his own premature departure from the Bolshoi when forced to "retire" by Grigorovich in the early 80s.


Asked if he thought the decree meant the end of Grigorovich's 30-year reign at the Bolshoi, he said, "I do not know if he will go but he cannot continue. There is such a crisis situation at the theater, there has been the most terrible damage done over the last 10 years."


Speaking Thursday as he was leaving Moscow for Buenos Aires with the Kremlin ballet's production of Zorba, Vasiliev said, "It will be a lesson for any future leader. Never should any director stay so long at the head of a company."


Vasiliev, one of many mentioned as a possible successor to Grigorovich, declined to speculate on whether he would be offered a contract to return. "I do not want to talk about what is impossible to know," he said.