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To Atlantic October 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 4:18 am

My settings automatically close the comments on each post after a time, and I don’t feel like searching for the little niche where this can be changed, so here’s my reply to your comment on “Everything There was Dark and Dirty,” (regarding Joy Womack’s videoing of her company class):

One thing I realized while watching entire company classes during World Ballet Day is that class (real class, not WBD class) IS FOR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT as much as staying in shape.  Somehow this never occurred to me, as I was never a professional.

I have no doubt that a class on a typical weekday is nothing like the dynamic, enhanced atmosphere I saw on the WBD broadcasts (particularly true of the Royal Ballet, who seemed very aware that they were actually doing a performance that day and not a class).  Everyday class has to be a grind.  You’re literally going to school all over again every morning.

No one wants their current weaknesses or the teacher’s corrections broadcasted all over the place. It’s almost like an invasion of privacy. She should have stopped videoing classes the first time she was asked.

Better yet, she never should have done it in the first place.  What if one of her class videos affects someone else’s career?

She also mysteriously hinted in her latest video that there are “changes coming in (her) life,” but who knows what that means. The last time she hinted at a big announcement, she kept putting it off for about 2 weeks until she finally said that her father was coming to visit her. Nice. But not a big announcement.  Some of the comments below the video even wondered if that was the announcement.  It was that anticlimactic.

Therefore I’m sure whatever changes are upcoming are also going to be nothing major. Maybe she’s switching pointe shoe brands again (she inserted a tangential complaint about her Gaynors doing something to her toenails; knowing her, this may mean that she’s now unhappy with them and will turn up wearing something else soon), or maybe she’s eating corn flakes for breakfast. Who knows.


17 Responses to “To Atlantic”

  1. atlanticw Says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Filming a class (aside from WBD where everyone is warned in advance) is like filming someone being critiqued by a supervisor or teacher. Dancers need constant critique in order to improve (as in many other professions) but no one wants that on blast for the whole world to see. In my previous career in law criticism and analysis of performance was absolutely necessary but usually done in private.

    I’m sure they don’t want filming in their class for the same reason no one would want their yoga class filmed and put on the internet! It’s their personal time to work on their bodies.

    As for her big announcement- the only thing I would consider big is a company change or engagement. The first is more likely as she seems to be voicing her discontent a lot about her company despite the promotions.

    As for her dancing I am obviously no professional so I am always on the fence about what I think. On one hand she wins a silver medal (and has won other competitions like the Asia grand prix) so I’m assuming she isn’t a bad dancer, but I also remember reading somewhere that she made some admission that LA ballet wouldn’t take her. Yes, she was made ‘prima’ but it’s then strange to me she cannot seem to get placement in any other company. Surely someone with her training and status should be able to get an offer from a regional US company? Or is it that her style is ‘too Russian”? But then how is it that so many Russian dancers come to the US/Europe…..

    I do feel strange discuss a complete stranger in such depth but as she makes a spectacle of her life it’s difficult to not comment.

  2. She also auditioned for the Dutch National Ballet last year and they didn’t take her. It’s rather cringe worthy she’s so open about auditioning for other companies. I mean, even when my company was going through layoffs and my boss (who is a good friend in real life) was basically telling me she was looking for another job and that I should look too, I never talked about interviews with her until the day I found another job. There was just an implicit understanding between us what showing up late or an extra long lunch break really meant.

    Anyway, it’s always interesting she and Zhiganshina get lumped together when talking about social media hustling. Zhiganshina’s social media these days seems more like someone who is a product of her generation. It’s more like she posts a lot of ballet because that’s what she does all day rather than because she’s trying to promote something. Because littered among those posts are tons of pics of her friends, her dog, and her boyfriend. Womack’s is clearly someone who is trying to create a brand and create a following. Even the green card husband was part of the branding at one point.

  3. theworstat Says:

    Yes, and she also auditioned for the Paris Opera Ballet and they didn’t take her. Some controversy on that one because she stated that she got through several rounds in the audition, hinting that she was bounced out close to the end, but word on the Internet was that her name was not among those that made the latter rounds. Again another gray area, and the end result was the same: she stayed where she is.

    Like you I wonder if her openness about looking for another job isn’t part of the problem. There’s also apparently the small matter of being somewhat of a diva.

    Anyway, I think Russian dancers are accepted abroad, but the reverse is not true in Russia (dancers from abroad are generally not well accepted there), because in Russia ballet dancers are kind of like a national team. They’re bigger, better, faster…or whatever. Yay Team! In the U.S., we just don’t care unless a dancer has a real unique schtick; in the U.K., they also only seem to care to the extent of an individual dancer’s charisma, and if he/she is from the U.K. and has “it,” the sky’s the limit. Look at Darcy Bussell. But…they do have two national ballet companies that are well-supported by the public. Here our companies go begging unless they have some gimmick going. In ABT, it’s STILL international superstars — they have never made much progress in that area in spite of finally having their own school again after decades without one (and they never took the old school seriously anyway); NYCB is still Balanchine’s shrine; the San Francisco Ballet attracts top-rate foreign talent and manages to thrive in a ballet desert; the Joffrey’s schtick is that they are the Joffrey. Name another company even remotely like that — maybe the Dutch National Ballet? Maybe.

    I have no doubt that the status of ballet, dancers, and foreign dancers varies widely from country to country, but probably there is no greater dichotomy that that between Russia and the U.S. It probably doesn’t help Joy much in Russia if she is viewed as not only an interloping foreigner (worse — from the U.S.!), but also a diva and a legend in her own mind. I have a feeling that Womack has unintentionally painted a target on herself by taking on those roles and not just meekly submitting to starting out in the corps and working her way up if possible.

    Like Atlantic I can’t honestly say much about her dancing, and my opinion of it changes from what little we see from one video to another. Her turns seem to be fantastic, but the rest of her dancing seems to vary widely. I don’t usually see much expression in her arms or upper body, where she seems stiffly correct and well-taught, but very little else. Her turnout keeps slipping, but the turnouts of a lot of dancers slip…I don’t make a big deal out of it. The music doesn’t seem to sing through her (even though she seems to think it does). To me she doesn’t seem Russian-trained at all. But then again, I haven’t seen her dance an entire ballet even once, let alone the number of times it would take for me to make an informed judgement.

    Someone commenting on another site mentioned that Joy doesn’t LOOK Russian, that she’s a “big strong American girl.” Bullshit. The last video I saw of her, her arms were so thin that she looked like a skeleton in an anatomy class. She is not huge at all, and she only appears strong because her turns are so formidable. Besides, all Russian ballerinas do not look the same.

    As for her having had her feet broken to get a better arch (this is a subject that continues to come up)…I’d have to review videos of her from before she went to Russia, or maybe from her first classes there, to make a judgment. Maybe she always had feet like that. But as I’ve said before, beautiful feet do not make a dancer. It’s how the dancer uses her feet. The most gorgeous use of feet I’ve ever witnessed was many decades ago, when a young soloist from Ballet Chicago…or maybe it was the Chicago Ballet (it was some long-dead company)…broke down on stage at a small ballet festival. Forgot the steps, started crying. Did a few mournful tendus before she fled the stage. She said more in those tendus than most dancers say in their entire careers, with their entire bodies.

    Is Womack a born prima? I doubt it. She’s never been a true phenom as far as I can tell — talented, probably, but not one for the ages. For her, becoming a prima will be a long, slow process. Is it impossible? Hard to say at this point, but I think she can do it. She appears to have improved immensely in the past year.

    Will she become an international superstar? No, probably not. I think the best she can aim for in the long run is to come back to the U.S. and dance as a soloist for ABT or maybe a principal at some regional company.

    I do feel bad for discussing a post-adolescent in these terms, especially one who is being treated for depression and eating disorders. But she needs to get real on several levels, or else the brickbats are going to be coming hard and strong from even more directions than they are now. She is just making things harder on herself. It’s hard to watch. I’m actually kind of glad that she’s been making very few videos lately.

    Why do I watch? It’s like a train-wreck. I can’t stop.

  4. KatiSzed Says:

    I actually commented on her most recent video where she showed how her fellow dancers told her to turn off the video. Doubt she’ll read it, but I mentioned that it has nothing to do with jealousy. It’s not like she’s actively promoting them, it’s all about Joy and if I had a colleague like that I’d be pretty turned off. I attended a professional ballet school until graduation and daily class was such a grind. There were days when it felt like I could do anything and everything and everyone has the occasional off day when you’re always off balance and you feel like you want to trade your body because it doesn’t feel like you. On days like that I most certainly would not have wanted someone filming to fulfill their own ego without my consent.

    In my current work situation (I’m a professional classical musician in an orchestra in Germany) I think that I’d be fired for filming rehearsals without the OK of my colleagues. It’s one thing to film yourself alone but to involve other people without their express consent is not ok. And to claim that they’re jealous and don’t understand her ‘creative outlet’ is ridiculous – maybe the situation would be different if the Joy Womack channel were more of a Kremlin Ballet channel, featuring interviews and the like with fellow dancers.

    I’ve mentioned this before but I also found her WBD video cringe-worthy the way she talks badly about her fellow dancers and that ‘jealousy is such a negative thing’ or however she put it, basically implying that everyone is just jealous of her. They’re probably not jealous, they’re annoyed with her entitled, increasingly arrogant attitude. I would be too if I had to work with her. In one video she was crying about a partner with an alleged alcohol problem (also, putting this on the internet – nuh uh, not a good idea) and that because of him a performance opportunity was ‘taken away’ from her. I was also more than a little annoyed by her attitude, that ‘oh, I’ve worked so hard and now I’m entitled to getting show’ and in show biz performances get cancelled. cast is changed and it happens every 5 minutes. If every dancers would feel like that, that because he/she put in the hours and put in the work felt entitled to work we’d have dance companies employing 500 dancers. It doesn’t work like that.

    As to Joy as a dancer, I think she has really improved over that past years, but a lot of the times it still feels like a highly superior student performing, rather than a professional in her own light. Her expression is at times one-dimensional and it seems very controlled. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s not getting work elsewhere, and it doesn’t shine a positive light on her either. If I were a company director I would have her labelled as being the diva and she’s happy as long as she gets her way, and if she doesn’t she slams the other people on youtube. Not so nice.

    I also fail to understand the point of her patreon account. I’m aware that dancers earn next to nothing but it still baffles me how she can have such a nice flat in a good area of moscow, and swanky gym memberships and the like.

    Why do I watch her? Like theworstat said – it’s like a train wreck. I can’t stop. I to tell her to take a big bite out of a piece of bittersweet humble pie and wake up to the real world.

  5. But foreigners are accepted to an extent in Russia. Masha Beck (ok, she’s half Russian) has a first soloist position at the Stanislavsky while David Suares got one of the leads in Jewels. the reviews I’ve seen in Russian forums (outside of the RBV types), are complimentary.

    Joy Womack’s problem is, as everyone has mentioned, being a diva who has made it clear she doesn’t really care about friends and is out for herself. I sympathize with her in some way because I’ve been in situations where I don’t fit in. Except, at the end of the day, rather than call these people out publicly, I did my best to get along with them In the end, while I wouldn’t call them good friends, they are people who would gladly give me a reference if needed.

    I am wondering if, after the Bolshoi debacle, Joy wouldn’t have done well to go to a Mikhailovsky or ENB type company where she could work her way up dancing Demi solo roles where she would have to interact on stage more with the other dancers. Part of the problem I see in Joy is that she has little chemistry on stage with the other dancers and I’m wondering if it’s because she doesn’t know how to work with other dancers unless they are “presenting” her.

  6. theworstat Says:

    *lightbulb went on* I’m wondering if she failed at all those auditions because she demanded to be named prima at the new company right off the bat? That, plus being a known diva with little to back it up (save that Varna silver, but that’s recent)…just thinking.

    • theworstat Says:

      Then again, she never would have made prima at the Paris Opera…

    • KatiSzed Says:

      Good point – that’s not unlikely! If she’s already unhappy with not getting enough roles/opportunities at the Kremlin (moaning about not doing Nikiya or Giselle) then I can only imagine she would not be happy about starting from scratch and working her way up.
      (One more thing about Varna: I watched all the live-stream and was actively following it in the Summer and it was very interesting! Excruciating rehearsal times, I really didn’t get that. They sometimes had stage-rehearsal slots starting at 1am?! I thought it might be because temperatures are too warm during the day in the open-air theater, but actually it wasn’t overly warm. Anyway – it was certainly interesting to watch Joy from a better angle than the ‘camera-on-floor-in-the-wings’. The only thing that somehow rubbed me the wrong way was the way she milked the applause to no end. I found it uncomfortable to watch the applause die out and she’d still be running on stage to bow for the 3rd time or something. A bit much)
      PS: love this blog! Can we talk about what an underrated ballerina Lauren Cuthbertson is? And what do you think about Yasmine Naghdi at the Royal Ballet? I adored watching her during the Royal Ballet live-Stream.

  7. POB makes it clear everyone starts in corps with them. However, it would not surprise me if Joy thinks she is entitled to a high ranking position by virtue of being a principal in a ~60 person company.

    Btw, the gold medalist in Varna was Brazilian Amanda Gomes, who is still a soloist with a regional Russian company. Another foreigner who has carved a niche for herself in Russia

  8. atlanticw Says:

    Your theory is probably correct. I understand some dancers do start a new companies as principals but that’s usually because it is a lateral move from a company like ABT to PNB or Mariinsky to the Bolshoi. She probably could get hired elsewhere if she were willing to be in the corps but from what I recall she stated once in the past her teacher told her ‘she stands out too much for the corps and needs to dance solos’. Either she is lying or her teacher is feeding her BS as to why they won’t cast her. If you stand out too much that means you aren’t good enough to follow directions in my opinion.

    And there are foreign dancers in Russia- Xander Parish seems to be doing fine. I think Russians prefer Russians but they clearly aren’t totally opposed to any foreign dancers so long as they are good.

    I was always under the impression (again, never danced professionally) that one should be excited to have any solos or roles. It seems like she exclusively dances Gamzatti which is a huge honor and most dancers would take that an run. I cannot think of many dancers that would scoff at a demi soloist position to get out of a tiny, under funded company in Russia, to dance at Dutch National. Heck- I’d be happy to be in the corps of POB-imagine living in Paris! I think that she is good enough to get a corps spot in most US regional companies and smaller European companies but she is likely demanding principal which she should not really have right now.

    Her finances continue to intrigue me. She often complains of being poor, but seems to go out to eat and travel a lot. As for her apartment she has alluded that she has a friend who lets her live there rent free. What’s certain is that no one else in her company lives that way if they are really making $8 per day. I don’t think she is making a huge profit off her prima bars so I am assuming her parents fund her possibly? Or a mysterious benefactor? Also- I feel if she were so prominent that Gaynor Midden would make her one of their endorsers but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

    I keep watching because I find it fascinating and as said before, it’s like a train wreck.

    • KatiSzed Says:

      I never danced in a company but I was in a professional ballet school and we had friends (recent graduates) in the company and getting to dance any role at all was already a big deal. Dancing Myrtha, Gamzatti and Odette is definitely nothing to be sneezed at! It’s nice to want to develop your other artistic sides but maybe the right way to go at it is to work on it oneself and do some private practicing and finding your own style.

      She was recently dancing in Sibiu with a principal from Dresden, so I’m wondering whether she’s thinking about coming to Germany. I’m surprised she never mentioned anything about German ballet companies – obviously Dutch National and POB are huge, international companies but I think Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, Dresden and co. have fantastic dance companies as well. (Especially Stuttgart – hello John Cranko!)

      @ Atlantic: I’ve also been intrigues by her finances and mentioned it on here as well. Though I imagine her foreign trips/tours are paid for by whoever hired her to dance and I can’t imagine she’s doing guest appearances for free, her spontaneous trip to the states last year did surprise me.

      I suppose I keep tabs on her because I’m curious how far her attitude and self-promotion will get her. But it’s getting harder to watch because I’m in a such a similar line of work and it really gets to me when I hear that entitled attitude. (It probably pisses me off more because I have colleagues like that and having it in real life is far worse than a youtube video you can turn off)

    • Gamzatti and Myrtha are coveted roles. Alexandrova is dancing Gamzatti this weekend at the Bolshoi and she’s one of the more well-regarded principals of the company. Maybe Joy sees herself as more a heroine or tragic female lead than a jilted lover or antagonist.

      I watch because I, as someone who does marketing for a living, am fascinated with how far her blatant self-promotion will take her. For all her overt self-promotion, she still “only” has about 18k followers on Instagram. It’s more than an accomplished but lower key Prima like Alexandrova, but behind more world renowned stars like Obraztsova (54k) or Gillian Murphy (64k) or soloists with a prominent side career like Meskova, the whiny single mother from Bolshoi Babylon (94k).

  9. In regards to Germany, Zelensky recently became the AD of the Bavarian State opera and ballet and got the Shklyarovs plus a few Stanislavsky soloists to join. Will Joy try to join in on the fun?

    • theworstat Says:

      I was wondering about Joy and the prospect of dancing in Germany; also, she seemed to really cozy up to a couple of San Francisco Ballet principals who were visiting recently.

      I think part of Womack’s problem in getting her name around — and also one of her strengths — is that she is in a company that does not tour the U.S. and is never seen here on television. Therefore, unless major publications write about her (which they do on occasion), even social media and YouTube isn’t going to help much. However, she can do and say whatever she wants with just about no one saying, “that’s impossible,” or, “I saw her on stage and…”

      • theworstat Says:

        I did note that in her latest video she was on tour with a German principal dancer, and having a great time, (she appeared to have a major crush on him), and as an aside she said something about “getting out of Moscow for a while.” It could be one of her regularly-scheduled
        depressions, but it also could mean something is up. However, I vote for the former.

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