Doctors were battling Friday to save the eyesight
of Sergey Filin, director of ballet at Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre,
after a masked man threw acid in his face.
Russian police said Filin was attacked outside his home late Thursday.
The 42-year-old, who has run the world's biggest and most prestigious ballet company since 2011, suffered serious injury to his eyes and the skin of his head, according to Russian media.
They said friends of Filin and detectives suspected the attack reflected resentments over power or casting decisions at the Bolshoi, which employs 200 dancers and is the home of classical ballet.
Filin, who is married with children, is one of the world's top male dancers, famed for performing the role of the handsome prince in classics such as The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake.
"I was frightened. I thought he was going to shoot me," Filin told a television channel, REN-TV, with bandages round his head completely covering his face. When he turned away, the attacker, who wore a hood, threw the acid at him.
"He has faced constant threats since taking the job," said Bolshoi spokeswoman Katya Novikova. "But we never thought that fights about casting decisions could descend to such a criminal level."
Colleagues of Filin said his website had been hacked into recently and strewn with insults. The tyres of his car had been slashed in the past.
The reports said top Moscow specialists were treating the damage to his eyes and expected his recovery to take at least half a year.
World ballet figures voiced horror at the attack.
John Neumeier, US-born head of the Hamburg Ballet, said, "I'm shocked at such an attack within the world of ballet which is so concerned for harmony and beauty." Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato called the acid attack "a barbaric act with no place in a civilized society."
The world of ballet could be "merciless," said former ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, adding that she had had hellish experiences in the Bolshoi company.
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