The Bolshoi Ballet has been mired in further controversy after a former soloist claimed female dancers were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons. Anastasia Volochkova accused the theatre's general director of turning the company "into a giant brothel". Outspoken Volochkova, who has dabbled in TV talent and talk shows, was fired from the Bolshoi in 2003 for being too heavy... "It mainly happened with the corps du ballet but also with the soloists," she said. "Ten years ago, when I was dancing at the theatre, I repeatedly received such propositions to share the beds of oligarchs. "The girls were forced to go along to grand dinners and given advance warning that afterwards they would be expected to go to bed and have sex," she alleged. "When the girls asked: 'What happens if we refuse?', they were told that they would not go on tour or even perform at the Bolshoi theatre. Can you imagine?" It is the latest in a series of controversial events surrounding the world famous Russian theatre, which has become notorious for infighting and rivalry. One of its top dancers, Pavel Dmitrichenko, is facing trial for allegedly ordering an acid attack on the ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin in January.For a novel about the Russian ballet in relatively modern times (late 20th century), try Dancer by Colum McCann:
Dancer is the erotically charged story of the Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev as told through the cast of those who knew him: there is Anna Vasileva, Rudi's first ballet teacher, who rescues her protégé from the stunted life of his provincial town; Yulia, whose sexual and artistic ambitions are thwarted by her Soviet-sanctioned marriage; and Victor, the Venezuelan street hustler, who reveals the lurid underside of the gay celebrity set. Spanning four decades and many worlds, from the horrors of the Second World War to the wild abandon of New York in the eighties, Dancer is peopled by a large cast of characters, obscure and famous: doormen and shoemakers, nurses and translators, Margot Fonteyn, Eric Bruhn and John Lennon. And at the heart of the spectacle stands the artist himself, willful, lustful, and driven by a never-to-be-met need for perfection.
UPDATE: there are well-written reviews of Dancer over at Bite the Book, The Book Chick, and Seeing the World Through Books.