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Some Womack News? December 28, 2012

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 4:04 pm
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Happened to stumble across the news that there is a chance that Joy Womack will be promoted to Soloist in the next month or so.  Mind you, the Bolshoi has a bewildering number of Soloist levels; I’m guessing she will be at the lowest level, which is probably equivalent to Coryphee in the companies that have that level.  But it’s still pretty startling news, since she’s only been with the Bolshoi a few months.  She must be doing very well.

It’s exciting to think that she may be one of the great ones instead of merely very good.  Time will tell.  Of course I wish her the best.  I’d love to see a video of her on the Bolshoi stage as a professional; there are none now…but I’m sure many are forthcoming.



9 Responses to “Some Womack News?”

  1. Jennifer S. Says:

    That is good news, but why is she promoted when she has not done even coryphee roles onstage at Bolshoi? I am genuinely perplexed. However if I had to choose I would choose Joy over Keenan, not for ability or talent, but for potential to become successful as a dancer in Russia. I have a feeling Bolshoi fans are a lot more accepting than those haughty Marinsky fans. In this instance, the fans mirror their respective theaters. One is proud of its supposed refinement or superiority and the other is proud of its self-styled truthfulness in expression.

    Keenan has done a lot to improve her average turnout from years ago, judging from the videos. But I can see she still isn’t up to same level of turnout the other young Bolshoi ballerinas seem to have. Unfortunately lack of turnout may make her more prone to injury if she is to start dancing demanding soloist roles.

  2. theworstat Says:

    I think the xenophobia being displayed by (some) Maryinsky fans currently may have something to do with something larger going on on Russia at the moment. Judging by what Conrad claimed in one of his videos, there also seems to be a thread of similar feeling at the Bolshoi (at least among the principal ranks). Still, the Bolshoi seems more connected to the government, and although they are pulling back from the world in many ways, they seem to be opening up to the thought of dance being a world-wide activity instead of just a Russian one. So Joy’s choice to go with the Bolshoi seems wiser than Keenan’s choice of the Maryinsky, which seems more isolated in many ways. A living museum, if you will.

    I’m wondering — if Womack’s promotion actually does happen — if it has anything to do with the fact that she turned down an offer of a soloist position at the Mikhailovsky. But that would lead one to believe that she somehow drove a hard bargain with the Bolshoi management, which I find impossible to believe. They have too many dancers to choose from, and have already imported an American principal. So if they hired (and eventually promote) her simply to score points in foreign relations, well, it could turn out to be a massive waste of time and money.

    Time will tell what happens if/when she takes on more technically challenging roles. She does seem to have been injured quite a bit already during her school days. Then again, there are varying degrees of turnout even among principals in Russia, so she may be okay.

    So much is in the future with this girl that one almost wishes to be able to read the last chapter in the book to take some of the mystery away. The one thing that worries me is the Nadia Pavlova syndrome — too much too soon.

  3. Jennifer S. Says:

    Well, distrust of foreigners is a trait of the Russian people. Not an exaggeration. This has basis in their history, being invaded by Tatars, Mongols, and most recently Germans will do that to a nation’s collective psyche. Ballet is seen by Russians almost as a birthright, a national legacy even though its origins are French. Because ballet did not originate in Russia and because ballet thrived in Russia when it was neglected elsewhere in Europe, many Russophiles will say ballet is preserved well as an art today because of Russian influences. They have a good argument.

    But now ballet is of course very international. Look at ballet competitions, it’s no longer dominated by Russian dancers and having a Russian name no longer guarantees anything. Sense of mistrust of foreigners being better at Russian art like ballet, and then you have a lot of anti-American, anti-Asian or anti-French diatribes. I see it like a glass ceiling. Most Marinsky fans were happy when Kim Kimin was invited to dance there because of lack of tall and technically strong male dancers there. Then once he began to do lead roles and possibly talked of being promoted, then you start reading things against him like how average his technique is compared to great Russian dancers of the past, or how he is incapable of emoting as a dancer like a soulful Russian dancer only can. They are glad to take foreigners’ money to train them or have them as bit players in the company but are not glad to accept them truly into the fold like western companies and audiences have done for their own foreign dancers.

    Interestingly enough, I just discovered a young American studying at Vaganova by the name of Tatum Shoptaugh. She has less turnout than Womack as the videos on her channel clearly show. She does a lot with what she has though. The thing with turnout is today’s dancers are required to do more technically difficult feats and are more prone to injuries if they are not as turned out to certain degree. That is what I fear ballet has become, gymnastic feats set to music. If Tatum was a Russian student she probably would not have been allowed to stay on with turnout she has, that’s my guess.

    Another blow to rbv’s contention that Vaganova trained dancers are superior, is a dancer by name of Ksenia Zhiganshina. She trained at a private ballet school where they taught tricks instead of solid foundation, at least to my eyes. I mean six, seven year olds in point shoes? C’mon. But she has talent and was finally accepted as a fifth or sixth year student into the Vaganova. If memory serves me correctly, rbv has raved about Zhiganshina in the past basically saying what a talent she is. But she wasn’t Vaganova trained until fifth or sixth year of training. So what gives? Either be consistent with your argument or just admit you base your arguments on prejudices. It’s ok for Zhiganshina to be accepted to Marinsky with only four or five years of actual Vaganova training but it is not ok for Kampa with her three years? What about Shoptaugh?

  4. theworstat Says:

    Ah, you must be talking about this monstrosity:
    I swear none of the girls in that school will be able to walk anymore by the time they’re 25. So that’s the type of school Zhiganshina came from…yikes. All tricks and no soul. Yes, little girls are better at gymnastics than grown women, but dancing Swan Lake with all its layers of emotion and meaning…gymnastics have little to do with it.

    I’ve watched Shoptaugh a little; just put my reaction down to the fact that she’s young and hasn’t developed yet. I’ll have to go back and watch some more. Oddly enough, Conrad has stated that Russian training can often overcome bad turnout via something called “placement.” Obviously this is not completely true. Then again, he’d probably just snort that Americans are incapable of dancing.

    I’m half Russian and grew up hearing about this, that and the other ethnic group being “bad” for some reason, so I understand what you mean. It just seems to me that this is becoming a bit more pronounced recently. Yesterday, in fact, Putin signed some directive that prevents Russian orphans from being raised in the U.S. due to “dangerous conditions” here. Not going to get into politics like that on this blog, but that sort of thing really takes me back to the days or yore, listening to this garbage.

    • theworstat Says:

      As for RBV’s Vaganova argument, I expect it will be conveniently forgotten once Zhiganshina gets into the Maryinsky (which is probably likely at this point). And it will be resurrected if Shoptaugh follows her. That’s what an invalid argument does: it becomes convenient because it’s not attached to any facts and can be used indiscriminately.

  5. atlantic Says:

    That video is disturbing. Even if a girl starts some pointe work at that age, it should never be at that level.

    The approval of Ksenia is the same as the approval for Somova. RBV is making an exception for dancers he likes. Ksenia is in the same boat as Womack or Kampa, accepted in the 5th year for a three-year course. Essentially the RBV argument seems to be that an ethnically Russian dancer is always superior,which is absurd.

    Russian dancers have no problem dancing in the west. I don’t know if I buy Conrad’s assertion that Osipova left the Bolshoi due to Hallberg. She danced with him many times in the US and I am sure she could have refuse to partner him at the Bolshoi if she stayed (and has Zakharova’s career tanked since she danced with Hallberg? I doubt it).

    Let’s just keep it real. RBV and others are prejudiced against foreign dancers. This is exhibited by the fact that Ksenia will probably get in to the Mariisnky and RBV will sing her praisesl, despite her only training for 3 years at the vaganova academy.

    From the videos I have seen of Womack, she seems like she could be a soloist. She seems very mature for her age and also willing to put in the work. However, that isn’t to say she won’t have to face some prejudice along the way. But I agree that the Bolshoi will be a more accepting audience. They don’t seem to have the same amount of snobs as the Mariisnky.

  6. atlantic Says:

    I’m sorry to post again, but I just watched the black swan pdd from that same school. What horror! This is akin to the US show “dance moms”. All tricks and no substance. It doesn’t matter that she did 32 fouettes if she wasn’t turned out.

    And the black swan is supposed to be ‘sexy’. I really hope her coaches didn’t tell her to be sexy. Unfortunately, I can see here making ‘eyes’ at her partner, so they probably did. 😦 This dance was made for an adult.

    • Jennifer S. Says:

      Yes I watched that Black Swan video too and thought the same thing!! Totally Russian version of Dance Moms complete with turning tricks performed with hips not turned out, I refuse to call such tricks fouettes as it has nothing in common with proper ballet.

      Of course rbv makes exceptions, he always has explanations for Somova’s shortcomings and tries to deflect them on others’ supposed dislike of her. Nevermind that often these are seasoned students, teachers, former dancers, and knowledgeable fans pointing out flaws in Somova’s dancing. They don’t even say kinds of things rvb and friends say about Kampa et al, but as soon as someone voices even smallest thing against Somova, rbv and friends jump on them like attack dogs. They may be able to shout down the few who dare to voice opinions but I suspect, fortunately for fans like us, there are many who don’t comment but who think bad of that type of nastiness and hypocrisy. It is already being talked about on ballet boards and he and his posse are losing respect of fans even as we continue to watch his videos.

      Back to those petrovasuper videos. It is said that the most important years of ballet training are the early, foundation years. During this time, a student will learn and establish correct basics of ballet syllabus. You can tell if a dancer has great foundational training or not. The ones who don’t are certainly capable of technical feats where they don’t dance but instead go from step to step, but if you look closely at their placement, line, and sloppy ways they finish certain steps, it’s all there for us to see. The fact that people are applauding petrovasuper’s videos does not bode well for future of ballet or those soon to be arthritic little girls for that matter.

  7. Cat Says:

    I’ve followed some of those ‘petrovasuper’ videos and am appalled. These girls are not unlike some of the very young ‘wunderkinder’ musicians one sees floating around on youtube. They’re doing fancy tricks but without any solid foundation. Who cares if an 8-year old can play Rachmaninov or do 32 fouttes if it’s a) not founded and b) completely immature? (And these kids can’t help it and aren’t to blame, it’s the parents and the teachers who are at fault)
    I no longer dance, but I was trained at a professional school by teachers who learned/taught at the Vaganova school, and since I’ve left school I have taken the occasional class for pleasure, and even though I’m no longer even near the level I used to be, teachers comment and immediately notice that I had correct training from the beginning.
    As for Joy Womack: I personally find it a pleasure to watch her – she’s quite musical, obviously talented, I think if she’s put in the right direction she could definitely be a candidate to watch out for. I’m not sure what might be going on with the politics, but I suppose wait and see if/when Joy is promoted.

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