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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

16 Suspended in Bolshoi Rebellion

The Bolshoi Theater director has suspended 16 people, including some of its biggest stars, for their part in the strike that forced the cancellation of the performance of "Romeo and Juliet" on Friday evening.

General director Vladimir Kokonin said the artists had been suspended for what he termed their "provocation" and "their lack of respect for the public, their artistic profession and their theater," Ekho Moskvy radio reported Monday. He warned that the entire dance troupe would be held responsible for any repeat action.

Kokonin's swift and draconian measure came after dancers staged the first strike in the famous ballet and opera house's 218-year history. The troubled theater is set to lose millions of rubles as it will have to refund tickets to the disappointed audience.

Prima ballerina and ballet master Natalia Bessmertnova, 53, wife of the outgoing artistic director Yury Grigorovich, was one of the organizers of the strike, according to Interfax. She was among those suspended.

Conductor Algis Zhyuraitis, ballet director and dancer Yury Vetrov, 49, and several principle dancers including Maria Bylov, Vetrov's wife, Natalia Arkhipova,Yury Vladimirov and Misha Bessmertnov, the ballerina's nephew were also named.

The strikers, who took the theater's administration as well as the audience totally by surprise, came on stage in street clothes and told the audience they were too grief stricken over Grigorovich's resignation to perform.

Their action was the latest effort to lobby for the removal of the general director and to protest the appointment of Vladimir Vasiliev as the new artistic director which signalled the end of Grigorovich's 30-year rule at the theater.

Grigorovich and Kokonin have been at daggers drawn for months, vying for control of the Bolshoi since a presidential decree last September ordered all employees including the artistic directors to work under contract.

Grigorovich finally seemed to accept defeat, resigning last week and departing Friday for Paris. Kokonin told Interfax on Saturday that he had signed an order releasing Grigorovich from his post.

Friday's strike, staged in his absence, was organized by his supporters who have benefited from his patronage.

The strikers were suspended on full pay pending a court decision on whether the strike was illegal, Interfax reported. If the court rules it was, the performers go.

Kokonin told Ekho Moskvy over the weekend that 54 of the 65 performers and orchestra members in Sergei Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" signed a letter to the management denying any participation in the strike.

Although Kokonin seems to have won the latest round, Taranda said he feared the infighting would continue. The official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta ran an interview with Grigorovich on Monday in which he criticized the policy of an administrator heading a great theater: "What does a director mean abroad. A clever and good clerk, an administrator."

Referring to two prominent theaters, he added: "Do you know who the director of MKhAT is? Or of the Sovremmennik? Just so. Everyone knows Yefremov, Zakharov," a reference to two major theater directors. "But no one can recall the name of any manager."

Izvestia seemed to hint at more changes looming. In a front page story Tuesday the paper said Culture Minister Yevgeny Sidorov, who appoints the general director, believed that reform at the Bolshoi Theater could only really start once Kokonin was also removed.