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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.

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7 Responses to “Musing about Womack”

  1. Jennifer S Says:

    There can be many truths and just as many sides in this story. Joy is not very strong from a technique standpoint; nor are her presence or artistic charisma so unusually great that they override her ho-hum technique (she has bad to average lower body placement). In one recent interview, Joy says a teacher at Bolshoi tells her that in all her years there she has never seen a talented dancer such as Joy be so overlooked in promotion. I call that b.s. because going back to my previous point, anyone with eyes, knowledge of ballet, and years of viewing Russian ballet will know that statement is really stretching credibility. I’m not doubting her assertion that a teacher there told her that, I just believe maybe that teacher might have been in the grift. Think about it, the teacher falsely builds Joy’s confidence up and has Joy thinking she as a teenage new grad of Bolshoi Academy (there only 3 years) is immediately deserving of soloist roles. A year passes in which Joy impatiently waits for the deserved roles coming her way. She inquires different sources about how to secure roles, was told in both roundabout and direct ways that nefarious means are used to achieve that end. How about $10k Joy, you got that much to spend on promoting your cause, because that is what it takes now.

    Would Jot have been made to feel her talent was stifled or slighted at the Bolshoi had not a teacher told such ridiculous things to her? Was she in an ultra competitive environment at the Bolshoi, where deliberate slights and assumptions of bribery on part of rival dancers were used to explain lack of progress on one’s own career?

    Likely, the truths are in the middle of the two sides. Joy in her interviews seems to have aligned herself to the Tsiskaridze contingent, as she says that Angelina Vorontsova is a dear friend. Vorontsova if you remember, is the ex-Bolshoi dancer whose common-law husband Dmitrichenko is on trial for orchestrating acid attack on Filin. Vorontsova has steadfastly stood by her husband even as he admitted his role in the attack. Upon being fired by the Bolshoi, Vorontsova has joined the Mikhailovsky at a higher rank of soloist.

    Now as far as being naive is concerned, Joy seems like she needs some lessons not to be gullible. Maybe the teacher telling her she is the greatest dancer to be ignored in recent history, is working in tandem with the powerful person who told her $10k would do the trick. Backfired because Joy didn’t think she needed to secure roles by using bribes, instead she went public with it. Also, Joy was woefully unprepared for the effects of aligning herself with Vorontsova. Did she expect Filin to embrace her push for roles as she sings praises of Vorontsova as a “dear friend” as she refers to her? And the timing of her accusations comes at a touchy time, when it seems Filin’s trial is opening up a can of rotting worms reflecting badly on corruption inside Bolshoi, specifically Filin’s staff and favoritism verging on criminality.

    Now it seems like these two cases are somehow converging. They both paint a picture of likely corruption, competitiveness within the most prestigious company in Russia, and undue outside influences on how many dancers are promoted or not promoted.

  2. atlantic Says:

    My eye is not trained enough to tell if Joy’s technique is up to Bolshoi standards. I feel that she did visibly improve greatly from the NY Times video to her graduation video.

    However, I have no doubt that the Bolshoi has more talented dancers than it has roles. Even if roles were given only to the deserving dancers, there still would not be enough.

    If the teachers were knowingly giving Joy false hopes, it was wrong of them. Perhaps they they were just being nice and assumed she would return to the US. They may not have understood her fanaticism for the Bolshoi.

    She may be better off in the US, big fish in a small pond as opposed to fighting for corps parts in Russia. Her technique looks better than the average US dancer, and she would probably have no issue getting solo parts here.

  3. theworstat Says:

    The points that are being made now about Joy by her former teachers at the Bolshoi are this: she was “misremembering” steps and taking forever to learn dances. Apparently this made it impossible for them to use her in any but the least demanding roles at the back of the corps — when she got onstage at all, which was apparently quite rare. And yet, somehow she was hired with a soloist contract.

    I tend to believe that at some point she just broke down mentally. There has definitely been too much of too much in her life in the past 4 years or so.

    She also may have suffered from aligning herself with the well-known malcontents in the company. This seems to have been a secret until now; when the Filin incident happened, her tweets and posts were all carefully correct.

    I do agree that she’d be better off at ABT, although I disagree about her having a soloist contract there. They’d likely hire her for the corps (their corps is full of ex-principal dancers and soloists from everywhere in the U.S. and other countries, as well as recent graduates of the JKO school; she’d be lucky not to land in ABTII for a year).

    Charisma is in the eye of the beholder so I’ll leave that one alone. And yes, she did get thrown out of the Kirov Academy for lack of sufficient turnout and flexibility. Obviously this still troubles her, although her dancing definitely underwent a transformation at the Bolshoi’s academy.

    I also have a feeling that she is a bit of a truth-stretcher (she was accused by a classmate at the Bolshoi of “doctoring” her class videos somehow so it would like like she was in a different class than the one she was in? — very odd, but I sense a bit of self-promotion going on here) and/or has a rather large ego, but these may merely be the traits of a very determined young woman — which is not a bad thing for an aspiring ballerina to be.

  4. mysylph Says:

    Reblogged this on mysylph and commented:
    Another article by fellow blogger The Born-Again Balletomane….

  5. atlantic Says:

    I think Joy has the determination to make it in ballet, and I have no doubt she will. The Bolshoi is a great company, but it is not the only one and does not define ballet. I feel like in a field that has so few jobs, beggars cannot be choosers. However, I feel that she fine wherever she ends up, but it looks like it won’t be the Bolshoi.


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