Remnick: "A Scandal at the Bolshoi Ballet"

Continually impressed by David Remnick, who, between serving as the bloody EIC of The New Yorker, has time not just to bust out whip-smart blog posts on Obama in Israel and Philip Roth, but to pen 11,000-word, richly reported pieces on, say, the Russian ballet. Here’s a characteristically wonderful paragraph:

I lived in Moscow in the last years of the Soviet era, when tickets to the Bolshoi were cheap, and I used to go whenever I could, happily enduring even Grigorovich’s agitprop warhorses “Spartacus” and “Ivan the Terrible.” There was something magical about stepping off the freezing, chaotic streets of the city and settling into a velvet upholstered seat, a million-crystal chandelier twinkling overhead, the balconies crowded with older perfumed women swelling with cultural aspiration and sitting with their adorable pigtailed granddaughters. When the ballet was bad, as it sometimes was, it was still a pleasant escape from newspaper deadlines and the antics of Gorbachev and Yeltsin. When it was good, I was entranced. But now, to watch the dancers from this meagre distance was to see them as if with binoculars: the sinewy weave of a young comer’s quadriceps; the palm-in-the-breeze articulation of a woman’s arm. After a while, one became aware, as well, of the pungent result of increasing exertion. “I don’t understand anything about the ballet,” Chekhov wrote. “All I know is that during the intervals the ballerinas stink like horses.“