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Tsiskaridze wages war on the Bolshoi - live

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17:49 11/04/2013

MOSCOW, April 11 - RAPSI. Welcome to RAPSI's live text broadcast of principal dancer of the Bolshoi Nikolai Tsiskaridze's legal battle with the world’s most famous ballet theatre. Thanks for tuning into RAPSI and watching the drama unfold live!

Live Broadcast

15:43 Well, the day has been as interesting as it has been dramatic! Thanks for joining us and stay tuned in to RAPSI for all the latest breaking Bolshoi drama!

15:37 Everything is quickly wrapping up. 

15:31 Tsiskaridze is going to appeal. He claims that the reprimands were equal for all intents and purposes, and is thus dissatisfied. 

15:26 The Bolshoi is satisfied with the outcome and has not yet chosen to appeal.

15:24 In other words, the judge held that Tsiskaridze deserved a reprimand for his Moscow Komsomolets interview, but that he had not deserved the BBC reprimand. Again, for your reference, the latter interview had been on the topic of the healthcare and health insurance concerns of the dancers. 

15:17 And we're back. The judge has ordered the Bolshoi to remove the second reprimand, but to leave the first in tact. 

14:15 The judge will now deliberate. We will return at 15:15 for the verdict.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze is leaving the courtroomNikolai Tsiskaridze is leaving the courtroom

14:14 Tsiskaridze adds that he didn't voluntarily cut down the Bolshoi during the contested interviews; rather he simply answered the questions he was asked. 

14:13 The Bolshoi further explains that Tsiskaridze doesn't contest the fact that he broke the rules; he merely contests the legitimacy of these rules based on these constitutional concerns. 

14:12 The Bolshoi asserts that it did not violate Tsiskaridze's free speech rights; rather it merely tempered them, similar to how freedom to travel is tempered by traffic laws and the rules of the road. 

14:03 Volodina discusses the circumstances that led to Tsiskaridze's recent popularity with the media, namely the allegations of his involvement in the acid attack. She asserts that the theater had done more damage to Tsiskaridze by asserting his involvement than the dancer did to the Bolshoi through the interviews. 

13:59 "I never thought that my job would land me in court," the star dancer laments. 

13:57 Her key point is that the rules under which Tsiskaridze's reprimands arose are incompatible with the Constitution. She notes that the law is on action, which engenders reaction. 

13:55 Volodina has taken the floor.

13:54 Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until our next break as the hearing has begun again. But in order not to burst your bubble, feel free to learn more about Cosmonaut Day at your own pace here, complete with awesome illustrations. 

13:50 Because we believe in your right to celebrate all the world's holidays, we'll tell you a little more about Cosmonaut Day while we're waiting for Tsiskaridze to successfully vanquish his press corps.

13:43 And we're back. Tsiskaridze's having a tough time shoving his way through the door. Camera crews love him.... to the extent of being unwilling to move and make room for him. 

12:52 It is entirely possible that the judge will issue a decision today. He seems pretty eager to power through. 

12:50 Tsiskaridze broke his silence to the press with the following: "There isn't yet anything to say." Nothing more.

12:45 The judge has continued her review of the documents. The parties had nothing new to add, so a break has been called. We will return in about one hour at 13:45 Moscow time (GMT + 4). See you then!

12:37 Tsiskaridze is apparently currently studying at the law academy. He is earning his Masters in labor law. 

Nikolai Tsiskaridze's attacked by reportersNikolai Tsiskaridze's attacked by reporters

12:35 The judge is now considering the Bolshoi's internal recruitment policies. He notes that the theater has its own doctor. 

12:30 In an effort to establish whether the interview was given during his work day, the judge asks Tsiskaridze when the radio station airs. Between 9 and 10 am. He then asks when Tsiskaridze begins his work day at the Bolshoi. Around 11. The judge is impressed, noting that things are good in the Bolshoi theater. 

12:27 Now the judge has turned to an interview Tsiskaridze gave to radio station Vesti FM in 2013.

12:25 The judge is now continuing his review of the written evidence. He considers an article detailing Tsiskaridze's history as a dancer and his start with the Bolshoi. 

12:21 According to Tsiskaridze, because dance is a high-risk profession, the Bolshoi's dancers are uninsured. 

12:18 In case you're as confused as we are about what chlorethyl is, we can at least tell you this is what it looks like....

12:15 In the publication, Tsiskaridze focused on his lack of satisfaction with the Bolshoi's healthcare offerings. Specifically, he noted that although dancers frequently need chloroethyl, it is almost never available in the theater. He further details the shortcomings of the insurance policy. 

12:12 The judge is now discussing the Bolshoi's ban on press contacts without the prior authorization of the company's press secretary. The policy includes a note on refraining from criticism and negative evaluations of the theater's administration. When the judge asks what specifically Tsiskaridze is accused of, the Bolshoi says all of the above.

12:08 Kudravtseva is beginning to discuss the type of damage asserted against Tsiskaridze. She notes that no one is accusing the dancer of storming the theater and smashing chairs. 

12:04 "I am the Bolshoi theater!" Tsiskaridze charges, raising his voice. He is offended by the suggestion that he would endeavor to damage the company that he plays so a central a role in.

11:57 Kudryavtseva says there is no proof that Stepanenko organized such a meeting. Tsiskaridze asserts his willingness to introduce eye witnesses. 

11:53 Tsiskaridze claims that the Bolshoi administration told some of the students he had taken under his wing that if they left his tutelage, they would open themselves up to new roles. 

11:50 Stepanenko had allegedly organized a meeting on the topic of the Moscow Komsomolets interview that formed the basis for the first reprimand. She asked their Bolshoi colleagues to sign a petition against Tsiskaridze. According to him, no one signed. 

11:43 The second reprimand was based on a report by ballerina Galina Stepanenko. This one had to do with interviews with the BBC and news agency Sovreshenno Secretno.

11:40 And we're back. The judge wants to move past the first reprimand, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Volodina wants details from the Bolshoi on just what Tsiskaridze's words did that were so damaging to its reputation.

11:38 The break is still on. By the way, it's Cosmonaut Day here in Russia. Let's all take a moment to appreciate Yuri Gagarin, first man in space. 

11:28 The break has been long, but no one is dispersing. All are waiting eagerly for the second act to begin.

11:19 As Judge Komisarov returns sans robe, Tsiskaridze shoots up and urges five more minutes- saying he needs a walk. 

11:17 Tsiskaridze expresses concern that if he leaves the courtroom for a bathroom break, his actions will be deemed to have been on the basis of self interest, an effort to attract personal publicity.

11:05 It's getting a bit too intense in here. The court has called a short recess.

11:03 The Bolshoi side claims that Tsiskaridze made the statements at issue on the basis of self interest, in an effort to attract personal publicity. 

11:00 "Thank you, Nikolai Maksimovich, for helping me adjudicate the hearing," the judge retorts. The courtroom audience is highly entertained. 

Bolshoi's principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze Bolshoi's principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze

10:57 Tsiskaridze loses his temper as Kudravtseva abruptly switches the direction of the conversation to the dancer's second reprimand over sick leave. "You're confusing the court! We're talking right now about the first one!" he roars. 

10:55 Kudryavtseva asserts that while the rights of employees to voice their opinions is protected, this fact does not entitle employees to exceed the bounds of ethics. 

10:53 The judge is now reading Tsiskaridze's interview with Moscow newspaper Moscow Komsomolyets. Until now, many in the courtroom have been unclear about what exactly was said during the interview. 

10:50 "Let's not confuse the staff of the theater with the theater's general director..." Kudryavtseva begins, at which point Tsiskaridze abruptly interrupts: "He is entitled to insult the staff?"

10:48 Volodina questions whether the interview at issue was different from the rest, asking whether the basis of the use of allegedly offensive language matters. She wants more information on the specific circumstances that led to the first reprimand at issue in this case.

10:45 The Bolshoi's second representative Kudryavtseva adds that the issue is not so much the fact that he gave interviews without consulting the theater's press secretary, but rather the content of those interviews. She asserts that his insults were unethical, in contravention of the theater's rules.   

10:45 Tsiskaridze is clearly having a tough time stifling his words. He looks very anxious to interject.

10:43 The Bolshoi adds that Tsiskaridze has consistently kept up a smear campaign of sorts against the theater via the mass media.

10:40 She adds that in accordance with the Russian Labor Code, Tsiskaridze should have been fired after two breaches. Rather, he was only reprimanded. So really, he has it good. 

10:39 Bolshoi representative Ivanova further asserts that Tsiskaridze's recent interviews haven't been limited to the subject of the tragic acid attack - rather he has focused on an array of discontents including the Bolshoi wages and health care plans.

10:36 She asserts that Tsiskaridze's reprimands were fully consistent with the Russian Labor Code.

10:35 Ivanova adds that the Bolshoi has a labor union which participated in the establishment of the Bolshoi's labor rules nine years ago. She notes that there hasn't been a single attempt to revise them.

10:32 The Bolshoi claims that its reprimands were reasonable. Ivanova warns that freedom of speech should not be confused with unlimited communications with the media. 

10:31 The dancer admits to having spoken with the media, but claims his interview transcripts were cropped and his words taken out of context.

10:30 Tsiskaridze adds: "I did not provide any false information. I emphasized my shame that we had to speak about crime rather than the splendor of the Russian ballet." On that point, he was speaking about the now infamous acid attack against Bolshoi Artistic Director Sergei Filin.

10:29 He adds that the interview that he received his first reprimand for was given outside of work hours and outside of his official job duties, thus claiming that he hasn't infringed upon any policy or his obligations to the theater. 

10:28 Ivanova counters Tsiskaridze admitted recently to not having had any difficulty getting in touch with the press officer.

10:25 The dancer adds that he hasn't seen a press officer present in the Bolshoi because he or she is constantly missing in action, thus making it difficult to officially coordinate press appearances. 

10:23 Tsiskaridze claims to be astonished by the fact that the Bolshoi has taken issue with his actions, as he has been a fixture in the public spotlight for years. 

10:20 Volodina says that Nikolai Iksanov, CEO of the Bolshoi for the past 12 years, claimed in an interview with Snob magazine that he was prepared to fire Tsiskaridze.

10:12 Ivanova presses him, asking whether his allegation of discrimination has reared its head in the form of missing payments. Tsiskaridze charges that in his 21 years at the Bolshoi, he has never seen an official pay sheet: "I don't know how much I earn."

10:10 The specific disciplinary actions the dancer has endured seem to have arisen from a press conference and a period of sick leave. 

10:08 Tsiskaridze's lawyer explains that in accordance with the Russian constitution, no one can be forced to express or deny their opinions. In sum, the defense stance is that Tsiskaridze did not violate any of the rules stipulated by his employment contract, whereas the Bolshoi violated the constitution. 

10:00 According to Tsiskaridze's claim, the Bolshoi employment contract does not limit the rights of dancers to voice their opinions on company matters. In fact, she adds that in 2004 the Bolshoi passed a rule compelling dancers to participate in press conferences and other publicity events outside of their standard job duties. 

9:59 Tsiskaridze's attorney Volodina claims that they never approached the Bolshoi with the option of an amicable agreement. They were instructed to take their beef with the theater to court.

9:54 The judge is now reading Tsiskaridze's claim out loud. According to the text, the dancer has never said anything defamatory about the theater; the outspoken principal claims rather that he has merely answered questions posed based on his knowledge of the facts.

9:50 The hearing has resumed. Meanwhile, in case you're interested we have a parallel Russian broadcast underway, available here

9:46 A photo of Tsiskaridze at his best, for your viewing pleasure 

Principal dancer of the Bolshoi Nikolai TsikaridzePrincipal dancer of the Bolshoi Nikolai Tsikaridze

9:44 Meanwhile, Tsiskaridze is taking in the massive press presence with curiosity and friendly smiles all around.

9:41 The bailiffs are getting feisty, shouting and shoving around journalists. The Bolshoi has submitted an objection to Tsiskaridze's claim, and a short break has been called to give the dancer time to assess it. He claims he hasn't seen it until now.

9:34 And the hearing has begun. On the plaintiff's side Tsiskaridze is joined by attorney Svetlana Volodina. Representing the Bolshoi are Anna Ivanova and Alina Kudryavtseva, who represent the Bolshoi Theater.

9:34 The court secretary has requested that everyone hand in their documents. 

9:30 The hearing should begin shortly. It was scheduled to start at 9:30.

9:24 Tsiskaridze has made his grand entrance, wearing a grey suit and with his attorney in tow.

9:20 Good morning and welcome to RAPSI's live text broadcast of the legal battle between star Bolshoi principal dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze and the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet company. With you this morning are Maria Gusarova, Vladimir Yaduta, and Ingrid Burke.

Background

Late last January, Tsiskaridze told RIA Novosti that he had been regularly harassed by Bolshoi Theater management. The dispute between management and the dancer escalated after an assault on Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the ballet company. Tsiskaridze was rumored to have been involved in the incident.

A month later, Tsiskaridze filed a lawsuit against the Bolshoi demanding revocation of the two disciplinary actions imposed on him in February. During that hearing, at the Tverskoy District Court, theater representatives suggested the issue be settled out of court as an amicable agreement. Nevertheless, the next hearing in the case has been scheduled for April 12.

Bolshoi Theatre spokesperson Alina Kudryavtseva says the plaintiff knowingly proposed unacceptable terms for an amicable agreement with the theater. Therefore, the dispute is unlikely to be settled out of court.

When asked about his next step, Tsiskaridze said, a trial will follow.

This isn’t the Bolshoi’s first trip to court at the hands of an angry dancer. Anastasia Volochkova made dominated global headlines in 2003 when she was fired from the Bolshoi for her weight. In September 2003, Volochkova was officially fired on the grounds that she failed to meet physical fitness requirements and an inability of the dance company to select a suitable partner for her. The court upheld Volochkova's lawsuit against the theater and she resumed her work there. She soon left the theater, although technically she remains a prima ballerina for the dance company.

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Tsiskaridze wages war on the Bolshoi - live

17:49 11/04/2013 Welcome to RAPSI's live text broadcast of principal dancer of the Bolshoi Nikolai Tsiskaridze's legal battle with the world’s most famous ballet theatre. Thanks for tuning into RAPSI and watching the drama unfold live!
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