The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

“The Truth About Turnout” November 28, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 8:17 pm

Since this subject comes up so often in the comments section of this blog, I’d like offer the following article for review.  It actually echos much of what I learned of the facts behind turnout back in my ballet-school days, decades ago:
The truth about turnout

What comes to mind is that Natalia Makarova once said that she’d had to train the entire corps de ballet of ABT to a perfectly-closed fifth position for the Shades scene in La Bayadere.  I have no doubt she had to do this, but the fact is, if you look at old films, you’ll find that extreme turnouts were less common in the past (even in Russia!) than they are now, much as extreme extensions and banana feet were not seen back in the day.  It was accepted that 99% of the dancers, even among principals and soloists, would not have full turnouts.  Peter Martins was, in fact, viewed as an oddity because of his flawless turnout — and it was even claimed by some that males could not achieve perfect turnout, period.

Further, you were actually taught ways to fake it.  Trust me (I had perfect turnout in my left hip/leg as a child; now I have perfect turnout in my right but not my left).

So for the future I suggest that this blog will treat natural turnout as a tremendous, but fairly rare asset, much like “perfect” feet.  The lack of perfect turnout does not deny a dancer a career in ballet, or even a good career in ballet.  It also does not compromise a dancer’s safety any more than a full turnout enhances it.  Ballet is rough on the body; most lingering injuries are simply from over-use.  Corrections of technique can alleviate some pains in the short run, but in the long run, ballet is painful and unnatural and that’s that.

Another good, if more than slightly esoteric, read: Turnout in the Work of Enrico Cecchetti


Evgenia speaks November 20, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 7:10 pm

Crime and Enchantment


Michael Shannon

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 5:26 am

Michael Shannon

Hard to say how this name got lost in history, but here’s what the real “first American to join the Bolshoi” is up to now.


To top it all off, there’s a Bolshoi laughtrack! November 19, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:30 pm

To top it all off, there’s a Bolshoi laughtrack!

Just when you thought they didn’t need another headache…Hand that company an Excedrin!  But you have to admit they are funny, in a sick, sad, sorry sort of way.

For instance, one of the most amusing quotes I’ve read from a person associated with the Bolshoi was (regarding Joy Womack) “this girl was obviously sent to destabilize the company.”

Well, LOL…that’s like arresting an infant for putting a 747 into a barrel roll.  Fact is, they were already pretty wobbly, and had been for a long time.  You don’t get paid applause in a company that’s totally on the up and up.

While we’re at it, here’s another article on the Womack situation.  Apparently she got one (demi)soloist role in the Nutcracker back in January, and blew it.  I recall her saying something about someone putting glass in her shoes — maybe this was her excuse.  But the comment by a fellow dancer is pretty blistering:
Slam City


Another view of Womack November 18, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:15 pm

Saw this on my WordPress feed this morning; loved it:

Too Tutu: Joy Womack and the Bolshoi by Mysylph

Here’s another great blog entry, this time from The Morning News:

The Bolshoi in the Dark


Musing about Womack November 15, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:41 am

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.


I was waiting for this… November 14, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:23 pm

Joy Womack

Question now is, if she has actually accepted a position at the Kremlin Ballet, is that going to be a better situation than the Bolshoi?  These issues seem to be pretty systemic in the Russian ballet world, after all (Kampa over at the Maryinsky almost definitely has a sponsor, for instance).

Another bit of news that I’m sure everyone has heard by now: Altynai Asylmuratova has been given back her position as Artistic Director of Vaganova, after Ulyana Lopatkina suddenly realized that being a full-time prima ballerina as well as a full-time artistic director wouldn’t be possible.  The nomination of Nickolai Tsiskaridze as the Academy’s rector is still up for a vote.

I’ll be interested to see what happens with Asylmuratova should Tsiskaridze be approved.