Russian Labor Ministry: Reinstate fired Bolshoi ballerina

Tuesday, September 30th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) _ The Bolshoi Theater must reinstate a leading ballerina who was fired after other dancers complained she was too heavy to lift, a Russian Labor Ministry official said Tuesday.

Anastasia Volochkova also must be given back pay following her dismissal two weeks ago, said Andrei Pryanishnikov, a spokesman for the labor minister.

Pryanishnikov said the ruling was adopted after a review by the ministry's Federal Labor Inspectorate, and the Bolshoi was given until Monday to carry out the order.

Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova, however, said there was no signed order for Volochkova's reinstatement and that it was too early to comment on the ministry's decision, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Volochkova, 27, was fired from the Bolshoi amid a contract dispute and claims by theater officials that they could not find partners to dance with her because she was too big.

The ballerina said that the theater offered her a contract through December, instead of a customary one-year deal, and that it refused to promise her parts in already scheduled performances.

The Bolshoi had said that it wanted to give a free hand to a new ballet director who takes over in January, when the contract would have expired.

The controversy spilled into the open in early September and attracted media attention.

Pryanishnikov did not explain the grounds for the labor inspectorate's decision. Pochinok had announced the ruling on Monday, but Pryanishnikov said at the time that the ministry's finding did not necessarily mean Volochkova's reinstatement would be mandatory.

ITAR-Tass quoted Pochinok as saying that the labor inspectorate, which looked into the circumstances of Volochkova's firing at her request, uncovered ``rude violations'' of existing Russian labor legislation.

According to ITAR-Tass, Pochinok said the Bolshoi violated the law by dismissing the ballerina weeks after her previous contract expired. By law, the theater was required to give her at least three days' notice before the contract ran out, he said.

Volochkova has dismissed the allegations that she was too big and said her many partners had never complained. When her dismissal was announced, she told reporters that she's about 5-feet-6 and weighs 110.

A former partner who quit the Bolshoi this year, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, threw his weight behind the theater in an interview published last week, saying that Volochkova had become too heavy to lift and that dancing with her meant risking injury.