Filin is in hospital in Germany where he is undergoing operations to save his eyesight, while a leading Bolshoi dancer, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has confessed to organising the attack.

Higher standards than usual

Ekaterina Krysanova, a principal dancer with the Bolshoi, spoke to us during a break in rehearsals for a ballet gala at the Coliseum in London.

"Right now we are in a very difficult situation, all of us, the artists and the management. And the most important thing for us to do right now is to unite and to stick together as a collective. We absolutely have to support our artistic director Sergei Filin in this awful situation that he has found himself.

"We have just performed Balanchine’s Jewels, and my partner Dmitry Gudanov and I had to perform in a number of parts of the ballet, the Rubies and the Diamonds, plus Dmitry was also in the Emeralds, and this was incredible pressure.’

"However the most important thing for us was to keep the quality of the performance at a high level. I believe that without our artistic director we have to perform at an even higher level than usual. It is very difficult for us to be without Sergey Yurievich, but we are holding on because it motivates us even further, as we really would not want to upset and disappoint him.’"

Yevgenia Obraztsova is also a principal dancer with the company.

Sad for everybody

Alice Lagnado asked her what the atmosphere was like at the daily ballet class attended by all dancers at the theatre.

"The atmosphere is difficult because there are a lot of things which make people nervous. Everybody is really nervous about our director who is in hospital now. This is an awful thing and a terrible thing and I cannot comment more. [There is] just one thing I want to believe - that Sergei Filin will come very soon, in good shape, and that he will see, and that he will be fine.

"People are worried about him, because it is strange and nobody understands why it’s happened here at the Bolshoi Theatre."

"A great guy and a great director"

Dmitry Gruzdyev is a former dancer with the Mariinsky in St Petersburg. He has been a principal dancer with the English National Ballet since 1993.

"I don’t think anything like that is supposed to happen in the ballet world but here we go, it’s happened and it’s sad for everybody, especially for Sergei and his family, and my heart goes out to him and his family.

"Hopefully he’ll recover because he’s a great guy and a great director I believe. I don’t have any words because I’m speechless when something like this happens.

"I think it’s a shocking thing for the whole world. I have no idea what the situation is in the Bolshoi but it can’t be that bad and it can’t be that political. [It’s] just very, very sad."

Pressures of the job

Wayne Eagling, who until recently was artistic director of the English National Ballet, was working in Moscow with the Kremlin Ballet at the time of the attack.

"I was talking to an ex-director Boris Akimov and he said that was when he was director he was constantly being pressured and called up and intimidated by different parts of the company, people wanting their favourites to go on, people who are disgruntled. So it’s not a new thing, it’s just so shocking that it came out in this physical attack.

"It’s all very well feeling passionate about things but I don’t know what’s happened about it whether they’ve discovered why it happened … but it really is shocking that somebody could do that to somebody no matter how irritated or frustrated they are. It is a shocking indictment of the brutality of human beings.’"

Filin in regular contact

Ekaterina Krysanova said that Sergei Filin is in regular touch with his dancers.

"Sergey Yurievich tries to be in touch with the dancers via Skype as much as the very difficult treatment he is going through allows him. But we feel that in his heart and spirit he is always with us. We know that he wishes us all the best of luck on stage, and in return we, of course, can’t wait for all of this to end as soon as possible so he can be back with us.

"This is an awful situation that the theatre is in at the moment and we really want for this end, so we can forget about it and move on."

Doubts about Dmitrichenko's role

Meanwhile, this week the theatre’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, spoke publicly of his own suspicions in the case. He said that though Pavel Dmitrichenko was guilty, he was not the person who had ordered the attack on Filin. The dancer had been egged on by someone else, the ‘puppet master’, he said. Iksanov also said the entire company supported his view.

Dancers and musicians at the theatre agree with Iksanov that Dmitrichenko was not the main force behind the attack. Some doubt he was involved at all. Many suspect that more powerful figures within and outside the Bolshoi are involved.

Writing in his Russian language blog, Violinist Kirill Filatov said that many people at the theatre have doubts about Dmitrichenko’s involvement in the attack, and that many more think he had no part in the matter.

Open letter to government

The Bolshoi artists have also written an open letter to the Russian government, a copy of which has been seen by Voice of Russia.

In it, they say that the idea that the dancer could have ordered the attack on Filin is absurd for anyone who knew him. It says in the letter that there are many examples in Russian history of how investigators have achieved the results that they need through unlawful means.

It is added that they are not indifferent to the fate of Sergei Filin, but that they want people to be able to see the case in a less sensational light than it has been described in the media. They state it is important to remember that Dmitrichenko should be presumed innocent before proven guilty. The dancers and musicians want the government to set up an independent commission to investigate the reasons for the attack.

Dmitrichenko held

Pavel Dmitrichenko is currently sharing a cell with other prisoners at Petrovka, the police headquarters in Moscow, his lawyer Alexander Barkhanov told VoR.

Dmitrichenko is awaiting transfer, most likely to take place later this week, to a pre-trial detention centre, Barkhanov said.

Trial set

The dancer’s trial is expected to start in April and if he is given a custodial sentence, which is likely, he will be moved to a prison outside Moscow.

There are few prisons in Moscow and so this Bolshoi dancer is likely to be sent a great distance away from the capital.

Barkhanov also denied reports that Dmitrichenko was not allowed to eat for 48 hours before he appeared in court on the 7th of March.The lawyer claimed he had brought the dancer food while he was in custody.

Latest twist

In the latest twist to the story, one of the men charged with an acid attack on the theatre’s artistic director claimed today that a dancer also arrested for the attack is innocent.

Yury Zarutsky, who is charged with carrying out the attack, said that the dancer accused of organising the assault, Pavel Dmitrichenko, knew nothing of his plans to use acid.

Zarutsky said the dancer had expressed a desire to have Sergei Filin beaten up, but that was all. He admitted it was his idea to ‘spoil Filin’s face,’ and that he was not paid any money for this.

The trial for all three suspects in the case is expected to start in April.