Bolshoi Acid Attack: Dancers Return To Stage

Katie Stallard, Moscow Correspondent

An acid attack on the artistic director of Moscow's Bolshoi ballet company has led several insiders to speak out about Russia's ballet wars.

Sergei Filin remains in hospital where surgeons are working to save his sight.

He believes the attack was linked to his work at the Bolshoi, but the precise motive is still unclear. No arrests have been made so far.

Other Russian directors have since come forward to say they have also received threats.

Sky News filmed a dress rehearsal of the premiere of a new show at the Bolshoi where dancers and theatre management are still in shock over what happened.

Prima Ballerina Svetlana Zakharova said: "You know, we all feel like abandoned orphans.

"We couldn't believe it. It still seems so absurd, but we have to get ourselves together, the premiere is very soon.

"So we are doing our best, we rehearse a lot, it's very hard, but we try. Of course we ask about Sergei's health all the time and we wait for his return."

Mr Filin said he was harassed and threatened in the weeks leading up to the attack, claiming his tyres were slashed and his email account hacked.

The artistic director of another Moscow theatre, the Gogol, has also come forward to say that he has received threats.

He received a text message, which said: "If you do not leave the Gogol, you will be next."

The manager of a St Petersburg production of Lolita told Sky News he was beaten up by three masked men last week, who threatened him at gunpoint.

Artyom Suslov said: "I was beaten up before for my art, but never in my life I was threatened with a gun. The whole situation is getting more and more tense.

"The incident with me is just a tiny part of what's happening. I am worried about people who may suffer next, because these people will not stop at anything."

Artistic tensions and professional rivalries had initially been suggested as possible motives for the attack on Mr Filin.

Former Bolshoi prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova said she remembers other dancers putting staples in her slippers and cutting the ribbons in an attempt to sabotage her performance.

But she believes the acid attack has little to do with Mr Filin's art.

She said: "Behind-the-scenes the Bolshoi Theatre is like a mirror of Russia - everything that is going on in our country, you can see inside the Bolshoi.

"I think over the last ten years the Bolshoi Theatre became not a beautiful theatre, not a beautiful fairy tale, it has become an outrage, criminalised and corrupt, unfortunately."

"I couldn't believe that this could happen, not to a businessman, not to a politician, not to someone from the criminal world, but to an artist - a ballet dancer."

Mr Filin is expected to undergo more surgery in the next few days. Doctors have said there are signs of improvement in one eye.

:: Russian police have questioned star Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze as a witness over the attack on Mr Filin, the AFP news agency reports.

A police statement said other employees of the Bolshoi and relatives and acquaintances of the victim had also been questioned, although Mr Tsiskaridze is the first to be named.

Well known for his appearances as a judge on TV talent shows, Mr Tsiskaridze has condemned the attack and denied any link with it.