The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Everything there was dark and dirty October 8, 2016

I finally watched Bolshoi Babylon tonight.  My take-away: don’t be a twit.

First I have to say that as an American living in the U.S., it’s impossible for me to grasp the deep importance of ballet to Russians.  In the U.S., ballet is a niche art that is becoming a niche sport as the numerous competitions spread, grow, and flourish (whether they lead to exciting ballet careers is a question for another article, but I do visualize there eventually being a ballet Olympics or something, and ballet dancers appearing on Wheaties boxes with their gold medals; art need not apply).

What the film did provide for me was a closer look at Filin, who appears to be a right little twit — not that that in any way excuses the physical attack on him.  It also clarified that Dimitrichenko’s apparent recent remarks indicating that Vorontsova was never his girlfriend/wife were a bald-faced lie.  And that Tsiskaridze is another twit.

Everyone, in fact, seems to be a twit.  There seems to be no peace in Bolshoi-land, only factions of twits hissing at other factions of twits.  Maybe this has calmed down a bit since Filin was deposed, however.

As for Joy Womack, anyone following her (who hasn’t seen the film) is probably under the impression that she appears in it at some point.  She has mentioned that she was interviewed for the film, in fact.

She doesn’t appear at all, and seems to be mentioned only obliquely (at one point near the end Filin says that no one has offered proof that he was demanding bribe money).  Somebody else — don’t remember who — said that there were a lot of dancers without talent demanding bigger roles, but that could have been a reference to a lot of people.  My only question is, why are there so many untalented dancers in the mighty Bolshoi?

Of course, certain elements of artistic talent rely entirely on the viewer’s perception.  The other day I was reading Ballet Alert’s discussion of Womack.  As is predictable, it went back and forth between those who think she hung the moon and those (one claiming to be Russian) who said that they, and the Russian audience, did not think much of her at all.  There was one video posted of her black swan performance with some tiny company somewhere, with a miserable orchestra and a partner who appeared not to have graduated from any recognized ballet school…or any ballet school at all.  In the same discussion of the same video, comments ranged from marveling at her musicality (which I admittedly didn’t see), to those who didn’t see the same thing I didn’t see.  Some mentioned stiff port de bras (which I did see), and others mentioned tremendous command.  To say she’s controversial is to make one vast understatement.

But it’s interesting to note that since she’s been promoted to principal, the discussion has gone almost completely silent.  She may now be a big minnow in a small pond, but that pond is in the same neighborhood as the Bolshoi and lives in the same soil.  Pretty hard to keep sniping.  Then again, as someone pointed out, she never mentions her reviews.

Anyway, on World Ballet Day she issued a video that sounded like a 21 year old making a sophomoric mission statement.  Note that no one asked, but she views herself as a leader, and she moans about her fellow dancers’ lack of extra-curricular conditioning regimes, and…and…and…

In a way it leads me back to Filin being a twit.  Somehow being raised in that insulated little world of ballet doesn’t always make for great leadership qualities.  Womack has a lot of maturing to do in a lot of ways, and she’d do well to watch that film again and really, really observe Filin.

P.S. to view Bolshoi Babylon online, you’ll probably have to pay a few dollars.  I got to see it for free because I have Amazon Prime, so that’s another option.  As for Womack’s WBD proclamation on Youtube, here it is: Womack Manifesto

I thank the commentors for their insights and urge you to read their remarks.

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3 Responses to “Everything there was dark and dirty”

  1. KatiSzed Says:

    I haven’t watched Bolshoi Babylon, but I will most certainly look into! (I’m really not a big fan of Tsiskaridze after watching the documentary about Chris Wheeldon creating a ballet at the Bolshoi and Tsiskaridze was being, well, a twit)
    I just watched the Joy Womack video you mentioned. I find some of her content increasingly cringe-worthy – I wish she would realize that not everyone is jealous of her. Critiquing colleagues on a public platform is not ok, whether it be true or not. I work as a professional (orchestral) musician and if I pulled stunts like she has done on more than one occasion I’d be on the streets and word travels pretty fast in a very small world and I’d have a hard time getting a job anywhere else. And on a side-note: if she’s so miserable with her bad pay (though gorgeous apartment, swanky gym membership etc) rotten colleagues and being far from home she should figure something else out.

  2. I generally felt the only one who came off well in that documentary was Alexandrova and it’s no surprise she has taken over Dmitrichenko’s role as union rep.

    Watching the documentary and Joy Womack’s vlogs, you would think throwing tampons and dropping pigs blood on each other was a regular occurance at these companies (sorry, been reading Carrie). And while I’m sure everyone makes sure their shoes and tutus are never out of their sights, the Instagram feeds of the dancers suggest that at the very least, they do make an effort to get along. Two of the Bolshoi soloists, Yanina Parienko and Anna Okuneva, post regular videos fooling around backstage with each other and with the other dancers. Some attended Tikhomirova and Ovcharenko’s wedding. And some wanted to meetup with Vorontsova when she happened to be in Moscow. And it seems the Brazilians don’t have any problems getting along with the rest of the company.

    I think it’s been clear since even in her academy days that Joy was never interested in making friends with the other dancers. Problem is, no one will invite you to hang out if you give off this air of superiority.

  3. atlanticw Says:

    I checked out the world ballet day video and I also saw she posted a new video. In this video she explains that she hasn’t been updating #1 due to time constraints, and #2 that her co-workers dislike it. She emphatically states that her boss is fine with it (he must be as she hasn’t been fired). There is also a very short clip showing her attempting to film class but is asked by her co-worker to turn it off ‘as no one likes it’.

    It must be incredibly awkward for her, but it’s not exactly like she is making it easy. I feel that she blames the hostility toward her on being foreign, but I don’t know if I believe that is the entire cause. While living one’s life on the internet seems to be something many millennials are accustomed to it doesn’t mean everyone wants that, particularly in another country. Even so, I haven’t heard of any other dancers doing vlogs involving so much of the company on film.


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