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New ballet scandal after Kiev theatre ousts dance chief

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The Ukraine National Opera house was embroiled in a farcical scandal Thursday after it ousted a star dancer from the post of ballet company chief on the grounds he never formally held the job.

Denis Matviyenko, 34, a Ukrainian dancer who has also won fame and prizes abroad, said he had worked as the ballet's director for one-and-a-half years on a mission to make Kiev a world-class city for ballet.

But he told Ukrainian media that he had been informed by the opera house that he had in fact never been the ballet company's director, despite being presented as such in late 2011 by the ministry of culture and working ever since.

The chaos recalls the bitter internal struggles this year at the Bolshoi ballet in neighbouring Russia, which led to the Moscow troupe's artistic director being attacked with acid.

Matviyenko, who had tried to breathe new life into the Kiev ballet, bitterly lashed out at the opera house's general director Petro Chuprina and the head of personnel Lyudmila Mavlenko.

"I see no point in staying in this theatre in any role as long as it is led by these people," he told the Gazeta.ua online newspaper.

"People like this don't just fail to help the development of ballet, they poison it," he added. "What has been going on at this theatre for 20 years is not the level of a national theatre," he added.

The theatre said in a statement that Matviyenko had never been ballet chief and had merely been working as a senior dancer since 2011. "The post of artistic director was vacant and Matviyenko did not occupy it," it said.

It said it had now appointed Ukrainian choreographer Aniko Rekhviashvili -- a far less prominent figure -- as the artistic director.

Ukrainian media bleakly compared the scandal with the general chaos in the country's notoriously unstable politics and society.

"The scandal at the national opera recalls a second-rate vaudeville. Like everything that has been going on in this country recently," the delo.ua newspaper commented.

Several world famous dancers, including rising-star Sergei Polunin and Bolshoi prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, received their first training in Ukraine but then made careers in Russia or abroad.

"I could earn what I made here (in Kiev) in one month by taking just one step into Russia," Matviyenko said bitterly.

One of the main protagonists in the Bolshoi scandal, its male star Nikolai Tsiskaridze who is currently in Kiev, waded into the scandal by backing Matviyenko in typically flamboyant style.

He told Channel 5 of Rekhviashvili: "Believe me, I know a lot about ballet. If I have not heard of her, then nobody has."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130411/new-ballet-scandal-after-kiev-theatre-ousts-dance-chief