The recent story of a horrendous attack on the Artistic Director of the Bolshoi Ballet, Sergei Filin, has brought to light one of the less glamorous aspects of the dance world: the lack of perspective it can foster.
Regardless of the motives of Filin’s attacker, we can be certain that throwing acid into the unsuspecting man’s face outside of his apartment in Moscow was not warranted. What decisions – artistic, financial, or otherwise – could Filin have made that could have ever encouraged such a barbaric act? The answer is none. But in the world of dance, where perspective is often hard to come by, the stakes were high for his attacker.
It isn’t hard to lose perspective when immersed in dance- dance professionals spend many hours a day enclosed in a studio or theater, surrounded by the same people and issues, day in and day out. They rarely have time to interact with people outside of the profession or to experience their concerns and dreams in a different context.
How is one to find perspective under such conditions? I remember having to work consciously to gain perspective on my dancing life, both as a ballet student and later, a professional. Casting decisions felt devastating, and injuries made me feel that my dreams were disappearing before my eyes. It took time to realize that these setbacks didn’t mean I was going to die, or that my career was over, or that the AD disliked me.
But the perspective needed to situate my disappointments, fears, or anger into reality was a long time coming, and I was not aided by the dance world. For that, I always relied on my friends and family, people outside of the world I inhabited.
The perspective I gained never undermined my goals or made me less serious about my chosen profession. Instead, it helped me see what was really important, and how to handle the unexpected challenges of being a performing artist.
Starting from zero
The New York Times article ends with another truly disturbing fact from Filin. Apparently, he claimed the attack wasn’t as bad as when he danced the first act of Swan Lake on a broken leg because his mother was in the audience. “…if they shut the curtain and announced that something had happened to me, Mama would not tolerate that,” recalls Filin. “So I danced until intermission.”
Only in a world where perspective has been lost, would that inner dialogue even exist.