Pavel Dmitrichenko longed to dance star roles at the Bolshoi.
But now the lanky, hollow-eyed dancer has won notoriety as the mastermind of a shocking acid attack on the troupe's powerful artistic director, Sergei Filin, for which he will serve a six-year sentence in a penal colony.
Former soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko and two co-defendants were found guilty of carrying out a premeditated attack on Filin which left him nearly blind as the acid flung in his face caused severe injuries to eyes and skin. He underwent dozens of operations and is continuing treatment in Germany.
Dmitrichenko asked an ex-convict, Yury Zarutsky, to carry out the attack while a third man, Andrei Lipatov, drove Zarutsky to the scene outside Filin's apartment building, the court heard.
Zarutsky was sentenced to 10 years in a special penal colony for repeat offenders, while Lipatov was handed a four-year prison term in a strict regime colony, like Dmitrichenko.
The three must also pay Filin a total of 3.5 million rubles in moral and material damages.
A pale Dmitrichenko listened attentively during the hearing, smiling occasionally to friends in the audience.
He smiled at his father upon hearing the sentence.
- 'Hooligan' not quite "born to dance" -
Born to parents who performed with renowned Russian dancer Igor Moiseyev's folk dance troupe, Dmitrichenko, 29, studied dance in Moscow and then joined the Bolshoi.
Last year Dmitrichenko, who then had long platinum-blond hair, told Rossiya 24 television that he was keen on football but his mother insisted on him auditioning for ballet school.
"My mum took me along to the ballet school and told me: 'I'll buy you a Mars bar (they had just appeared) if you do what they tell you," he remembered.
"As a result I ended up at ballet school against my will."
He told Kultura channel in 2009 that "they chucked me out of dance school about five times for hooliganism. I threw firecrackers at the teachers".
"They turned a blind eye to my behaviour and let me finish studying," he said, concluding that if it weren't for ballet, the streets would have a "bad influence" on his already rebellious personality.
But ballet took a hold of him and Dmitrichenko spent six years in the Bolshoi's corps de ballet before rising to more prominent roles, becoming a leading soloist - one rank down from the principal dancers who are the top stars.
Dmitrichenko specialised in dramatic villainous roles such as Ivan the Terrible and the Evil Genius in Swan Lake. In 2009, he danced the starring role in "Spartacus".
"The most important thing in theatre are the moments when you are part of history, legends," he told Rossiya 24 in 2012. "That's the best... those small moments that stay in your memory all your life and you can tell your children about."
-- 'Easily influenced and unbalanced' --
Last year Dmitrichenko's then-girlfriend, fellow dancer Anzhelina Vorontsova, complained to Rossiya 24 that she would like to get more roles at the Bolshoi, while her teacher Nikolai Tsiskaridze revealed that his pupil had been refused the role of Black Swan in Swan Lake.
Investigators suggested Dmitrichenko felt hostile towards Filin because he and Vorontsova had been passed over for the top roles - a claim the dancer vehemently denied in court.
"I never asked Sergei Filin to promote me... I never ask for anything in life," Dmitrichenko said.
Filin said at the time of the attack in January that he believed the crime was related to his work.
Dmitrichenko acknowledged in court that he had discussed Filin with the attack's perpetrator, Yuri Zarutsky, who is unemployed and has a criminal record, and knew that Zarutsky planned to beat up Filin.
But he said he was horrified when he heard that acid had been used.
"I heard Anzhelina talking to her teacher about an acid attack on Filin. I went to the internet and it was full of it. I was in shock... I didn't sleep that night," he told the court.
Dmitrichenko's supporters who attended court hearings included fellow dancers Tsiskaridze and Vorontsova and backstage staff such as costume designers and make-up artists.
His friends speaking in court said Dmitrichenko stood up for the rights of dancers and asked Filin to allocate bonuses more fairly. He was a trade union representative at the theatre.
Tsiskaridze told the court that Dmitrichenko defended "those who were short of money and who had little work".
But Filin said in his testimony that Dmitrichenko was a complicated man prone to arguments, while unnamed colleagues told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily that he was "easily influenced and unbalanced".