Saturday, 9 October 2010

Austrian ballerina of Russian-Armenian origin sacked for nude photo shoot

Photos appeared in the September issue of the Austrian men's fashion and lifestyle magazine WIENER. Reports say that Karina Sarkissova was previously warned over similar photos in Penthouse magazine.
VIENNA — The management of the Vienna State Opera and its ballet company says it has fired a ballerina for posing in the nude after she was warned not to do it again. The management of the prestigious institutions says solo dancer Karina Sarkissova was axed Aug. 23 after a series of provocative photos of her appeared in the September issue of the Austrian men's fashion and lifestyle magazine "Wiener." A statement Friday said she had already been reprimanded in May for nude shots that were taken in the opera house without permission and published in the June edition of "Penthouse."
News were reported by,, Telegraph, AFP and other agencies too.

Karina Sarkissova considers this case discriminatory. WIENER magazine that published her photo shoot, posted a nude picture of Vienna ballet director Manuel Legris, that appeared on a photo book cover, and was not resulted in disciplinary actions.

You may access her website at

I have to say, she looks stunning.

*pictures - by Moritz Schell für den WIENER / September 2010 (1, 2)

UPDATE 17 October 2010:

“Late last week the state opera caved in to public pressure and agreed to reinstate Sarkissova in an apparent effort to avoid further embarrassment.”

For more details (based on The Sunday Times), as well as statements by Sarkissova and opera director, see comments section below.

The Sunday Times: Karina Sarkissova said her nude modelling was inspired by photos of Manuel Legris, above.


Anonymous said...

Mika jan, I didn't know she was Armenian though I suspected because of the "Sarkissova" surname... When you say "Russian-Armenian" do you mean she was mixed or that she is ethnically Armenian but living in Russia? In any case, also covered the story, though citing AFP:

artmika said...

I meant she was Russian resident...

There have been reports by some Russian (and then Armenian) outlets yesterday that she got her job back after "apologising". But want to get more independent confirmations before posting news here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mika jan, yes there are now reports that she's back with the ballet company. reported the story today citing I don't know Russian so I can't check the original source, but I'm sure you can ;)

artmika said...

The Sunday Times (no free online access) provided with more details of the story and follow-up developments. Below are extensive extracts from the piece.

Russian-Armenian ballet star sacked after participating in a naked photoshoot “has turned the tables on the boss who fired her by revealing that he, too, was once in a risque photoshoot.” [Unzipped: Gay Armenia - I don’t think this info is quite right as she got fired not by Manuel Legris but by opera’s general director Dominique Meyer] She “retaliated by revealing that Manuel Legris, the ballet’s director, posed for erotic photographs in the 1980s with both male and female partners at the Paris Opera.”

“Sarkissva handed the pictures of a naked Legris in various poses to the newspapers, saying she had been inspired by his example.”

“He took artistic liberties and wouldn’t allow them to be censored by anyone and he published illustrated books with erotic but artistic pictures”, Sarkissova wrote in an open letter to the press.

“The ensuing scandal and charges of double standards have caused a sensation at the opera house, best known for its production of classics such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Editorials in leading German-language papers sided with the balerina and accuses the opera’s management of behaving like “Pavlovian dogs”.

“Our bodies belong to our art, as does the way we use them,” said Sarkissova, who is married, adding that the pictures portrait a “symbiosis of strength and aesthetics”.

“The photographs which in Wiener appeared with the headline, “The naked balerina, ballet as we like it”, shocked Dominique Meyer, the state opera’s general director. In a statement he said Sarkissova’s actions were incompatible with the dignity of a great cultural institution, but public opinion turned in Sarkissova’s favour when she revealed that the opera house had commissioned a ballet, Bella Figura, with topless dancers”.

“It remains a mystery why Sarkissova’s photographs prompted such a harsh penalty when Legris himself appeared naked and that didn’t lead to his dismissal,” declared Kurier, Austria’s bestselling broadsheet newspaper.

“Late last week the state opera caved in to public pressure and agreed to reinstate Sarkissova in an apparent effort to avoid further embarrassment.”

“Of course I wasn’t happy about the whole thing,” said Mayer. “The public debate around the story has assumed frightening proportions. Mrs Sarkissova has apologised to me and we’ve found a positive solution”.

“Ballet lovers welcomed the news but some commentators persisted in accusing the opera house of bigotry and prejudice. Nudity is common in contemporary dance and has not been considered outrageous since 1960s. The hard line taken by management was attributed to Sarkissova not first asking their permission”.

“The balerina, who trained with the Bolshoi in Moscow and best known for her roles as Zulma in Giselle and Hamsatti in La Bayadere, issued a statement acknowledging that it was wrong of her not to consult her superiors. However, she told The Sunday Times she stood by her decision to appear naked and that she was a victim of sexual and artistic prejudice.”

“I felt discriminated against, both as a woman and as a prima balerina with over 10 years of professional experience, just because I dared to display my femininity with pride,” she said.

“Prudishness and small-mindedness have no place in art and I stand for the courage to be erotically provocative.” “She said she wouldn’t pose nude in the “immediate future” but hoped to win a (naked) role in a production of Bella Figura, which opens in January”.