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Senior crew member of the Moscow Ballet says Charleston was 'the worst experience'

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Charleston was 'the worst experience'

A senior crew member of the Moscow Ballet told City Paper his professional interactions in Charleston were the worst he'd ever experienced, characterizing the people involved as rude, condescending, and arrogant.

The problem, according to Paul Magro, a former stage manager of the Moscow Ballet, was the "adult chaperones" of the children's ballet troupe. The troupe comprises child dancers who performed in the company's Great Russian Nutcracker.

"The adults were very rude, condescending, and mocking when asked not to take photographs," Magro said. "They sprawled all over the floor in very busy working areas, creating a hazard and impeding crew and dancers."

More infuriating, Magro said, was an attitude of entitlement: "The general air of arrogance and 'we own this joint' attitude was very unacceptable as they were guests to our performance!" He added, "I have toured all of Canada and the East Coast with the Moscow Ballet, and Charleston will be remembered as the worst experience."

Magro did not identify the "adult chaperones," but Doug Smoak, director of the Charleston Dance Center, was in charge of organizing the local auditions for the children's troupe. The ballet tours for two months during the holidays. In that time, 6,000 children in local communities across North America participate in the program.

In an interview, Smoak admitted to tension between Magro and volunteers backstage, though he was not present. Personal gripes are hardly worth worrying about, he said, as long as the performance runs smoothly and the kids do well. Even so, parents and volunteers later reported to Smoak that Magro was "bossy and barking orders"

"You just can't do that to people in the South," Smoak said. "You can't give orders and expect people to hop to it. You have to pet us a little first."

Magro responded, saying he and his crew had a job to do and that backstage is a dangerous work environment, not a social occasion. Smoak said the ban on photographing children in their costumes, a rule put in place to protect The Nutcracker's brand, was news to him. He didn't know about it until after the performance.

Even so, the rule isn't iron clad, according to Mary Talmi, Moscow Ballet's producer. And Tim Kushi, the ballet's community organizer, said that Magro was a part-time employee. His contract has since expired.

"He doesn't speak for the ballet," Kushi said. —John Stoehr

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