The dancer is also still an artistic force to be reckoned with, provoking wild applause when he appeared last night in Schéhérazade, part of the ‘Russian Seasons’ ballets at London’s Coliseum.
Photo: Alice Lagnado
Fans of Nikolai Tsiskaridze have been in a state of excitement about his arrival in London this week.
It’s his first performance in London in two years, and the dancer, who has performed with the Bolshoi since 1991, has a huge following here as well as in Russia, where he is a household name.
Tsiskaridze sizzled last night as the Golden Slave in Schéhérazade, a short ballet that was premiered in 1910 by the Ballets Russes in Paris, performed to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov.
He commanded the stage as a dancer of his experience should, with authoritative technique matched by strong dramatic ability.
But there was no mistaking this was Tsiskaridze for other reasons, too – such as his preposterous, jewel-encrusted costume and a performance that led one critic to joke that he was more Golden Syrup than Golden Slave.
Tsiskaridze has been in the news lately after he publicly criticised the Bolshoi’s management following an acid attack on its artistic director Sergei Filin earlier this year.
The Bolshoi has denied the dancer’s claims of corruption and poor management and hinted he may have had a role to play in the attack.
In June the theatre sacked Tsiskaridze, upsetting many of his colleagues, who privately say he is only articulating what many of them think, but are afraid to say.
VoR’s Alice Lagnado asked the dancer what damage he thought had been done to the Bolshoi.
“I think it’s an absolutely monstrous situation that was staged and encouraged by the management of the Bolshoi, and became an international scandal which quickly gained global attention and caused significant damage not only to the theatre, but to the Russian legal system, and first and foremost, Russia itself.
“The people responsible for this – the management of the Bolshoi, need to be harshly punished, because spoiling the country’s reputation this way is unacceptable. I’m once again ashamed of what has happened in our country.”
Photo: Nikolai Tsiskaridze in his dressing room by Alice Lagnado
Does Tsiskaridze think the theatre can recover from its recent scandals?
“I don’t know and I don’t think about it too much. I absolutely agree with [opera singer] Anna Netrebko, who said that everyone needs to be fired and new people should be brought in. I totally agree and I said it a few months before she did in an interview I gave to the BBC, for which I was told off and fired and made fun of and humiliated … so you see, it’s not just me – a lot of people say exactly the same thing.
“All the big stars are in agreement over this – because you see, when you have to choose between the administration or the artists, then the administration needs to be the one to go. A theatre is about the artists, not the administration - you can’t create a theatre for the administration, that’s ridiculous!”
Many are curious about what Tsiskaridze plans to do next, now he’s left the Bolshoi – head up a ballet company in Russia, perhaps – but right now, he doesn’t want to think further than the summer.
“I just want to talk about my holiday. I’m going to do this ballet, then go on holiday – that’s something nice to look forward to.”
Does he keep up his ballet on holiday?
“No. I’ve had enough. I’ve done enough of that for now.”
Not everyone, of course, agreeswith Tsiskaridze’s views on the Bolshoi.
But what is certain is that this dancer’s future career will be followed closely by anyone with an interest in Russian ballet.
While he may not be appearing with the Bolshoi theatre in London this summer, Tsiskaridze is likely to be a major player in Russian ballet for a long time to come.