There is a story that on the day Alexei Fadeechev was appointed artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet last summer, the roof blew off Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre during a freak hurricane. As metaphors go, it is an excellent one. The ballet has been so riven with dissent, bad publicity (Channel 4 in Britain did a wince-inducing documentary on the company's disastrous Las Vegas tour called Dancing For Dollars) and litigation that it might just as easily be renamed the Bolshie, and it needed a human tornado to come sweeping through its ranks. Mr Fadeechev - an opinionated, tough and self-assured 39-year-old - is amply qualified to play that role. In an hour's conversation at Sha Tin Town Hall, where the Bolshoi is performing Don Quixote (original choreography by Marius Petipa in 1869, additional choreography by Mr Fadeechev in 1999), he discussed his job and the world of dance with cynical good humour. He likes to jolt his listener; perhaps this is a result of 20 years' performing before an audience. His attitude towards his own dancing career, for instance, is of the strictly pragmatic variety. 'It was a job, always a job,' he says. His father is Nikolai Fadeechev, a great Bolshoi dancer, but for Alexei, 'the happiest moment is when the performance finishes'. Was there not a glimmer of yearning in his childhood soul? 'Soul wants to play football,' he observes, succinctly. Nevertheless, this disinclined, matter-of-fact youth was taken on by the Bolshoi. Would he now, as artistic director, have hired his young self? 'Yes. It's enough for me to see what a dancer shows on stage. What he feels, I don't care. He feels pain maybe. I don't care. For example, a great painter has an exhibition, the critics look at the paintings, they say: 'Oh, he thought this when he painted that.' But the painter thought nothing, probably. He thinks about money, maybe. It's the same.' Such hard-headedness, combined with a certain emotional objectivity - 'I didn't have strong relations within the company, I have few friends who are dancers' - may have been what inspired the Bolshoi Theatre's general and artistic director, Vladimir Vasiliev, to offer Mr Fadeechev his new job. (The post, incidentally, had been vacant since Mr Vasiliev had fired its previous incumbent in the summer of 1997.) 'When Mr Vasiliev asked me, it was a surprise,' Mr Fadeechev agrees. 'I have a choice - to dance two more years or to be the new artistic director. He gave me the possibility of a new life.' Now he, too, has learned how to dispense fate. 'I have to think for the dancers. Sometimes I have to decide their destinies - will they go this way or that way?' He pauses. 'You know, the difficult thing in my job is to speak with stupid people. Ballet dancers are used to listening only to orders. We have a very strong hierarchy in the Bolshoi.' As a result, his job sounds like a cross between a stage technician, an administrator and a (reluctant) psychiatrist. He describes his day thus: 'Wake at 8.30, drive to Moscow, sit in the office with its antique furniture and listen to the dancers. They say: 'Why am I not dancing this? Why not that?' And I say: 'Because you are not a good dancer.' Then I have the papers, the letters from London, South Africa, Hong Kong about the tours. Then a dancer asks me to come and look at his jump on the stage. And it's terrible. And I say: 'Perhaps you can work on this and that . . .' ' Mr Fadeechev grins, enjoying his martyrdom. His Sha Tin chair - definitely not an antique - creaks in protest as he fidgets restlessly. 'The most difficult thing is to watch every performance. When the dancers see me watching, they do better, but it's terrible to have to be there every night. I plan to have my photo taken and make it bigger, put a jacket on it and sit it in the audience, clapping, instead.' As artistic director, of course, he is now higher in the strict Bolshoi hierarchy than his famous father, who is a Bolshoi teacher. Mr Fadeechev falls silent in contemplation of their relationship. 'He has something I don't have . . . He's got . . . he's very alive. Sometimes he's too naive, he's more artistic than me. He's got something for eternity.' He shrugs. 'There is not enough language to explain. He is my father.' Alexei Fadeechev's own gift to eternity, of course, has yet to be revealed. Maybe he will help to regild the Bolshoi lustre which has faded in its post-communist-era search for lucre. Fortunately, he was not on the ill-advised Las Vegas tour. 'But I heard about it. I remember when the name Bolshoi meant something. I remember this. I'm working to put the Bolshoi in the position that it was before.'