Culture: Helping Save the Bolshoi

THE BOLSHOI IS NOT DEAD,” theater critic Vadim Gaevich comment-ed in late March. “It’s sick. The question is how long the convalescence will take.”l Gaevich was speaking during one of the worst crises to grip the Moscow theater in its 219-year history. Bolshoi dancers had just staged their first-ever wildcat strike in protest over the resignation of chief choreographer Yury Grigorovich, who opposed plans to rid the theater of Soviet-era management practices. Vladimir Ko-konin, the company’s reformist director-general, had been dismissed by presidential decree after taking the strike’s ringleaders to court – only to be reinstated a week later as one of two directors. Leading members of the company, including anti-reformist chief conductor Alexander Lazarev and prima ballerina Natalya Bessmertnova, were leaving in droves, while dissent threatened to spread among the company’s lower ranks as well.