I’m sitting here trying to tie together the news that Joy Womack if leaving the Bolshoi for the Kremlin Ballet, with the comment Jennifer S. left on a previous post (that Womack is divorcing her Russian husband because their marriage was a sham), and this:
Voice of Russia article
Now, character assassination is a pretty common weapon in Russian ballet circles, and some people provide generous targets. As I never saw Womack dance with the Bolshoi, it’s impossible for me to say if she was one of them.
My take on it, as an older woman who has “been around the block” more than once, is that Joy Womack is a teen with high ideals, and possibly a girl who came from a very sheltered, strict “Quiverfull” type of background (note the use of the word “type;” if the family actually had been Quiverfull followers, Joy would never have been a dancer to start with). I won’t allow discussion on this last point; all I will say is that perhaps it produced a young woman slightly divorced from reality. Then again, I’ve known very few 18-year-olds who were entirely grounded in reality. If they were, they would probably give up on life before they started.
She had received tremendous encouragement by being accepted into the highest class at the Bolshoi’s academy, and then by graduating with exceptional marks. She probably looked at the future and saw herself as a Bolshoi prima within 5 years.
And then reality struck.
According to an American classmate who graduated with Womack, the Bolshoi considered neither of them to be prospects (he is now a soloist at a smaller theater) because the Bolshoi doesn’t pay for work visas for foreign dancers. Obviously this rule applies more to most dancers than to some; David Hallberg comes to mind.
And so the very determined Joy Womack got married to a Russian she barely knew and applied for citizenship. (Kind of puts me in mind of the fictional character, Scarlett O’Hara, sixteen years old, marrying a boy she didn’t love to stop people from gossiping about her.)
With that taken care of, Womack achieved her dream: she was given a job in the corps de ballet of the Bolshoi. I do not accept for one minute that she only got in because “she insisted” like the article claims. That claim is way too easy to shoot full of holes. Poor Bolshoi! She insisted! LOL.
But then the grind of daily life in a major company started to set in. Possibly it was all too much. Changing countries, cultures, languages, marrying a stranger and starting a career all in short order is a bit of a challenge even for the strongest of youngsters. Maybe her dancing suffered; who knows. Like I said, I don’t recall ever seeing her on stage with the Bolshoi, and long months passed after she joined without a word about her being breathed anywhere. I do know that her father at one point posted on her Facebook fan page that she was going to be offered a soloist contract earlier this year. The date came and went, and she was still in the corps.
At the time, I thought perhaps Filin was her champion, and his injury prevented any progress from being made in her career. But obviously that wasn’t the case.
My first sense that all was not well with her was when the Bolshoi went on tour, and did not take her with them. The Maryinsky took Kampa along on their tours, after all. But Womack was carted off to southeast Asia to dance Odette/Odile at a Bolshoi satellite theater — never heard a word about how that turned out — and then to compete in a ballet competition (which she won). It was all very strange and set me wondering.
But that’s in the past. For her near future, I hope she has proof of the corruption she alleges, or else she’s going to become the next Anastasia Voluchkova. And it’s quite possible that she doesn’t deserve that fate.
I’m not saying that she’s lying. I’ve heard way too much gossip in the recent past, even from such odd sources as RussianBalletVideos2 on YouTube (who would cringe at the thought of his words being used to defend an American dancer), to be able to believe that everything she’s saying is false. I also spent a lot of time wondering over the past year and a half how such an unworldly young woman would survive in a well-known snake pit like the Bolshoi.
But I do know that the Russians will attack this poor kid with all their bitchy little backbiting until her reputation is lost, (a dead give-away that this is already starting is the xenophobic snipe about “an average American…” in the linked article above), and very possibly her career as well. Perhaps this is why she is staying in Russia rather than coming back home in defeat — so she will not be viewed as running away from whatever they decide is the truth about her.
Still, one wonders if the Kremlin Ballet will pay for her work visa, which she will need now that she is getting a divorce and is not yet a citizen. One also can’t help wondering if the corruption she alleges pushed her out of the Bolshoi (after she’d just given an interview in which she stated that she was all about the Bolshoi and would never leave), is also present at the Kremlin Ballet — and if it is, how long will she last there? And what will she do all alone in Russia — she is, after all, getting a divorce — with no family support, after she grew up in a large and close-knit family in the U.S.?
There has been a fair amount of discussion on other sites as to why she refuses to come home. I’m sure ABT would have a nice post in the corps for her. What’s the problem?
As I said, I believe at least part of it is her determination to tough out any attacks on her, and not to be seen as running away. However, the accusations she’s made are potentially very serious, and she needs to be able to back them up to save herself from the hell they will drag her through. If she won’t back up her words — and she is not going to the police, according to sources — then why did she bring this up? It seems to be a lot to go through, when it would have been much simpler just to say, “I’ve decided to go home,” and leave ’em guessing.
All things considered, it seems better just to come back to the U.S. and build a career here, sans all the (excuse the language) bullshit.
UPDATE: Apparently Womack was under a soloist contract with the Bolshoi, either right from the start (which makes one wonder why her father was crowing about it much later), or in the current year…but she was not being used as a soloist or much of anything else. When on stage at all she was in the corps. Word has it that she had problems memorizing steps. Being a person who failed in dance partially because I could never memorize steps, I can sympathize. But the fact remains that Womack got through a demanding preprofessional program and graduated with high marks…and then started forgetting combinations? There is also word that she was pushing too hard to be a full-fledged soloist right off the mark, before she had proven herself. Something tells me she put herself under too much stress and this is the way it manifested itself. A little youthful arrogance thrown into the combination probably didn’t help much.
So here’s my conclusion: she had a bad performance review coupled with somebody saying something really stupid to her (I do believe the $10,000 bribe part), and decided to split. It’s still a bit out of character for her to bail out…that’s why I believe the part of the story about the bribe and the need to get a sponsor. Not the first time I’ve heard that stuff, after all.