25 September 2003
So much that happens in what once was known as Holy Mother Russia has been either tragedy or farce. After a century that saw the devastation of the german wars and the brutal imposition of a foreign and evil system of tyrannical materialism and finally its fall, only to be replaced by another materialism and spiritual torpor has left nations more shaken than sensate.
Dostoevskij thought beauty would save the world, he also thought Russia would save the world. In Russia many art forms have found an exquisite realization. In dance, classical ballet, people the world over have russian pre-eminence come to mind. And here we do not have tragedy but an episode of farce. A prima ballerina, Anastasia Volochkova, has shined, become renown and enjoys a following among the masses. She has beauty and elegance. She was dismissed for being too cumbersomely large and heavy. She claims that there are political and personal animosities weighing against her.
In the russian press this is playing out like an old fashioned melodrama or a present day soap opera. A hundred years ago Matilda Kshesinskaya was the attraction of the stage and the fancy of a few of the male Romanovs. Her story has been brought up in the present context. She did not get along with her ballet director and the tsar had him dismissed, today the ballet director may have people to answer to, but there is no tsar and the girl is sent away. Twelve hours before the performance of Swan Lake she is sent adrift.
One is reminded of the Dance of the Hours in the cartoon Fantasia and the hippo ballerina being lifted by the croc danseur. We do not have this here. Our lissome heroine may rely too much on stage cosmetics, but she is far from gruesome. I sit here an ocean away and can only view the brouhaha at a very distant balcony seat. But, she is more attractive than many fashion models and her face has animation, I have no knowledge of her personality, she may exhibit the horrid prima ballerina persona, but unlike many popular idols here, she does possess the ability commensurate to her adulation.
So how big is our agile nymph giant of the Bolshoi ?, apparently in the neighborhood of five foot six inches and a hundred and eight pounds. The more silly and absurd a reason given for someone's firing, the more illegitimate the real reason. Someone does not want someone around and they are made to go. But why?, the true reason may be petty and capricious to the extreme, but people want to know why. So something is given. The more stupid, the more suspect it must be.
As I said this is not tragedy. Performers travel. The Bolshoi is in Moscow, the girl is from Saint Petersburg and there are ballet companies there (the Mariinsky for one the Kirov for another, though their costumes have recently burned up). The tragedy is for individuals in everyday jobs who are dismissed by similar happenstance and have no place to go and no one willing to see their case.