The Bolshoi theatre has announced it is terminating the contract of one of its biggest stars, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who infuriated the management with lacerating public criticisms after a horrific acid attack on the troupe's artistic director.
With his big hair and striking looks, Tsiskaridze, 39, is one of the theatre's premiers known for solo roles in ballets such as the Evil Genius in "Swan Lake". But his 21-year career at the Bolshoi is now apparently ending after a very public battle with the management.
"I can confirm that yesterday Tsiskaridze was given notice that his fixed-term contracts will not be renewed. His contract runs out June 30," Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova told Rossiya 24 television late Saturday.
Sounding upset, Tsiskaridze told NTV television on Sunday that "to be honest, this is still not clear, because I'm on staff as a ballet artiste. When I was taken on, I joined the staff. I didn't sign any paper to be released from this. It's all very confusing."
When artistic director Sergei Filin suffered severe injuries from an acid attack in January, Tsiskaridze gave outspoken interviews calling for the theatre's entire management to be sacked and for himself to be put in charge.
He even questioned whether Filin really had sulphuric acid flung in his face, causing him to lose his vision in both eyes.
In a hugely damaging scandal, a top soloist at the ballet, Pavel Dmitrichenko, 29, has been charged with ordering the acid attack and is now behind bars.
Tsiskaridze is a household name who regularly appears on television, and his widely reported comments prompted a tit-for-tat response from Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov, who blamed the dancer for the atmosphere leading to the acid attack.
Tsiskaridze took the Bolshoi to court seeking the retraction of official reprimands that he was issued over the interviews, but scored only a partial victory.
Born in Tbilisi, Tsiskaridze studied at the Bolshoi ballet school and joined the theatre in 1992.
While his dance career is coming to an end because of his age, he has made no secret of his ambition to join the theatre's management, and he also teaches younger dancers.
The attack on Filin shocked ballet lovers by revealing poisonous behind-the-scenes feuds at the legendary theatre.
Filin's wife Maria Prorvich last week posted a message on Facebook dictated by Filin saying that he undergone an 18th operation on both his eyes at a German clinic.
"I continue to hope and believe," he said.