The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Rose Adagios and New York, NY January 25, 2017

Went to YouTube last night and watched part of the Bolshoi’s Sleeping Beauty, which had initially been broadcast a few days before.  Olga Smirnova was Aurora…at least, she was dancing the role.  It’s always hard for me to get used to a Russian Aurora, since I’m  expecting that bubbly airhead and instead am faced with a stone-cold classicist who barely pays attention to her suitors unless one nearly drops her, or doesn’t quite get there in time during one of the balances.  Of course I’m kidding, but only just.

Smirnova was a quintessential Russian Aurora.  As Aurora gets more grown up as the ballet progresses ….I mean, she wakes up after something like 100 years…I’m sure Smirnova’s interpretation was just great by the end of the show.  But as it was, it seemed like she was taking class from a very strict teacher and wasn’t much worried about appearing to be a giddy teenager.

Whatever.  Sleeping Beauty puts me to sleep, anyway; it’s all those damn fairies.  Just when you think you’ve seen all the fairies it’s possible to behold…DAMN!  Another bloomin’ fairy.  It gets old very fast unless one is into looking closely at the soloists for future prima ballerina possibilities.

And on to other things…as ever, Joy Womack.  I wondered and wondered what was going on with her.  She left Russia in November and never went back except for one day — and that was to be her application day for a Russian green card.  Apparently she didn’t get one; she’s now stranded at her brother’s place in New York City, unable to return to Russia due to visa issues.

It’s turned out not to be such a bad thing.  Of course she probably won’t get an offer from ABT, as in one of her previous videos she didn’t really badmouth them, but she did mention that they do not generally promote their own dancers beyond soloist because they have so many guest artists.**  Not a great move if one is thinking of future job prospects; prospective employers generally don’t like to have their flaws pointed out.  But she’s taken class with them at least twice, so they’ve now seen her up close and personal.  And considering her newfound love for NYC…

…To be fair, she is not talking about joining ABT.  She’s having a ball taking classes at Steps on Broadway and is speaking almost like she works for Gaynor Minden.  What she did say about her future performing career was intriguing: she is thinking of “putting together a team,” whatever that means, and touring.

Judging from that, it sounds like she means to be a freelance ballerina.  Like I said, what she really meant by that remains to be seen.

It does sound like she is no longer obsessed with carrying on with her career in Russia (Katisized, you were right!).  It could be that she’s finally accepting the caustic reality that her situation there was never secure and didn’t look to improve beyond being a prima in a tiny company.  It could also be that she’s decided to look past Russia strictly because of the visa issue.  And it could also happen that when/if her visa finally comes through, all this NYC love will become a passing fancy and she’ll be back to trying to hammer her Russian dreams into reality, unhappy and drained as that seems to leave her.

I observed that she seems much, much happier right now than she’s ever been (almost like a giddy Aurora!) except for during one brief working trip to California a few years back.  If this is so, maybe there’s a message for her in that: forget your Russian dreams, kiddo; your bouquets are all right here at home.

Freelance possibilities aside, it would be most interesting to see her take a place in a U.S. company and watch how she looks in the same mirror as home-grown dancers.  Obviously if she got into ABT or the San Francisco Ballet, she would likely have to step down to soloist.  Would she be able to step up again?  That would be fascinating to see.  Plus, we would finally really get a chance to closely observe her dancing, live and in person on a steady basis, and make solid judgements based on that.

She is not famous for being clear about anything.  The only thing for certain right now is that she can’t go back to Russia at the moment, and maybe she shouldn’t even try.  There’s no use in continuing to try to build a house of cards, no matter how solid the foundation seems to be.

** That is true now, and has been for decades; it’s too early to tell whether having attended the JKO school will make any difference in an ABT corps member’s or soloist’s future, or if the company will ever stop relying so heavily on guests to fill out its principal roster if indeed it gets more than enough talented kids out of JKO.  It sure didn’t work with the previous ABT school, which folded in the early 1980’s — but then again, that school was never as serious and well-organized as JKO; it had no set ballet curriculum (the JKO school does), and no junior division to speak of; it consisted mainly of preprofessional classes, which may or may not have been open — meaning that anyone could attend (although I do remember seeing a call for auditions at that school).  The only really major dancer I can remember whose training was strongly attributed to that school was Fernando Bujones.  And I may not even be remembering that correctly.

Of course Womack never attended JKO, and she does not have enough standing as a prima ballerina to join ABT as a stellar guest artist, either.  And so she would have to start out as a soloist or worse, a member of the corps.


8 Responses to “Rose Adagios and New York, NY”

  1. Hopefully her traveling “team” sees more success than her attempt at crowdfunding a “Ballet Con”. I think she raised $200 out of a desired $700,000

    Speaking of Roses, have you seen the vids of Zhenya dancing Le Spectre De La Dose with Jacopo Tissi, the Italian guy Vaziev brought to the Bolshoi? What impressed me was how much taller Zhenya made herself look. Tissi is about 6’3″ (190cm) but they looked very well matched together. She’s also dancing legend of love and Giselle in February. I think those are her first performances at the Bolshoi since her maternity leave.

    • theworstat Says:

      Oh I do have to watch that, thanks for telling me about it!

      Can’t wait to see videos of her dancing since her pregnancy…it always changes a dancer.

      BTW I do remember that Ballet Con thing, but can’t remember what it was supposed to be about. Perhaps that was the problem, lol.

      • Zhenya also did a few guest performances in December and January. , but really am looking forward to seeing her Bolshoi return,

        BalletCon was yet another grandiose plan (in this case, a gathering of ballet fans from all over, complete with meets and greets with the stars and gala performances) that fell by the wayside once reality kicked in. I don’t shade Joy for having the entrepreneurial mindset. I just think it may be better to make announcements when it looks like something might actually happen.

        As for ABT, I never felt as if their rate of promotion was any different than any large company. Of course there are permanent soloists but the Bolshoi and Mariinsky also have their fair share. Plus, Filin seemed promotion happy when he was at the Bolshoi, enough so that when Vaziev came in, he said “why do we have 60 soloists?”

  2. theworstat Says:

    It’s interesting that the formerly insular Russian companies are now leaning a bit toward guest artists and they are also hiring outsiders who never attended their schools (in the case of the Maryinsky, the hiring of outsiders has become rather massive, especially since the Vaganova school has been headed up by Tsiskaridze — but to be fair, the trend started well before that). Also, the Royal Ballet used to be almost entirely British (back in the 1960’s), but since the 1980’s they have a variety of principals, while the former school kids languish in the corps for years. So it IS common.

    Of course, making it into a major ballet company is rare (it’s not even easy to get into a small regional company) and making it to soloist, even rarer. Making it all the way to principal is like lightning striking you twice one day, and then again on the same day the next year. It’s almost statistically impossible. So I can see the dancers’ frustration at having outsiders brought into companies at the upper levels while they serve as live scenery for their entire careers. Making the pressure and frustration even worse…well, I don’t know if they do it now, but the Royal Ballet used to dismiss female corps members after 5 years to make room for new kids from the school. The effect was that the moment one entered the company, the clock started ticking. But of course, in those days, they promoted mostly Brits, and most of those were from the school. Big difference there.

    ABT has always been the most famous of all the major companies for refusing to promote its own. There was a time under the rule of Lucia Chase when they had complete contempt for American dancers (and this was partially their own fault), and rarely, rarely, RARELY promoted anyone through the ranks, although of course it did happen. This changed completely (and somewhat ironically), under Baryshnikov’s rule, but the surfeit of guest artists continues to this day.

    The 60-soloists thing is hilarious. What’s odd, though, is that so many people were furious with Filin because of the dancers he WOULDN’T promote. This brings us back to Womack again, of course, but she appeared to be fighting her battle all alone (as opposed to some others I can think of) with no regard for the fact that someone just out of school rarely makes it out of the corps for a few years. She was her own worst enemy, and this trait continues, and I’ll be willing to declare her officially hopeless if she decides to continue her career in a tiny company in Russia just because she is a principal there.

    But the fear is real; even the current-day ABT corps is full of former principals, some from regional companies and some from abroad. Most will never make it out of the corps.

    You would think that if she’s that talented, though, she would be content to slug it out in the corps for a bit and eventually outshine everyone all the way to the top (Xenia Zhiganshina comes to mind, as does Giselle Bertea — both were ballet-school standouts who are now hanging around in the the corps of major companies, waiting their turn).

    But maybe she was afraid that would never happen at the Bolshoi, and if she went elsewhere and had to drop back to the corps, it would never happen again. Who knows.

    • theworstat Says:

      Correction about the makeup of ABT’s current corps: while it was true a few years back that ABT’s corps was full of former principals from small companies, it appears not to be the case anymore. Most of the current corps kids appear to be former JKO students and/or ballet competition winners.

  3. KatiSzed Says:

    Speaking of auroras, I finally found some footage of Oksana Skorik dancing Aurora. Not entirely my cup of tea, although the lines in the Vision Adagio are truly beautiful. I think it’s not really her role – recent footage of Raymonda show that she’s been really improving and even a Giselle mad scene (though stiff) was showing improvement.
    Re: Joy Womack. I’m in such a muddle with this girl. Maybe Russia isn’t the pot of gold after all – I can’t help but getting a feel of a whiff of entitlement from her. I think that she’s all out for the ‘big stardom career’ and maybe dancing on stages the size of a closet really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. (Or dancing as a ‘guest artist’ in a school production of Swan Lake.) Even more so if she doesn’t get along so well with her fellow dancers. (Which doesn’t surprise me one bit – her shenanigans are extremely ‘me’ oriented, which is fine until you’re potentially damaging opportunities for your co-workers without acknowledging it as such)
    I almost forgot that she set up a patron account – through that she’s getting an extra $117 a month. If I recall correctly at one point she had enough supporters for around $300 a month. If I were looking into her videos I would not think that this is someone that can’t afford to live.
    I think she’s desperate for the big career and will do anything it takes. For a while she was getting a lot of publicity in Russia and maybe the hype around her in Russia is settling a bit so she feels a change of scene is necessary? She recently posted on Facebook that she’s getting some opportunity in LA and wants to meet ‘prima friends’ so I wonder what that’s all about.

    • I think big stardom career is exactly what she wants and she’s realized by now that she isn’t going to get it dancing with the Kremlin Ballet. I think the hype was due to the scandal and once that settled down, she was just another anonymous dancer. No doubt very good but not yet a star . And she would have to be way in her head not to notice outside of her Prima Friend bubble, she is still, pardon the bluntness, “small time” She’s not getting the invites to the star studded galas held at the Kremlin theatre itself. She’s guesting at schools instead of other galas with the big names. And even her photoshoots, she seems to arrange herself while Yulia Stepanova appears in Russian Vogue promoting jewelry and other Bolshoi soloists are modeling Italian designer brands.

      It doesn’t help the “Prima” narrative to go to a bigger company and be just another soloist or lower. So she can either see if a smaller European company like the Dresden ballet, where she guested, would be willing to sign her on as a principal or try her luck doing the baller equivalent of the club and university circuit.

  4. atlanticw Says:

    I find the entire Joy Womack situation bizarre. I noticed she has not been promoting her prima bars in a long time and I thought it odd. I then checked the company’s Facebook account and apparently they stopped producing the bars in September 2016-claiming their manufacturer closed unexpectedly. The prima bar site is now stating it will start selling some sort of vitamin supplement which goes along with her physician parent’s business. The more likely scenario is that no one was buying her stuff and they just quit producing. As if the world needed another granola bar-particularly one that was very expensive.

    She left to guest star at some ballet school in Salt Lake City and posted that she was taking classes at Ballet West. Now she is taking classes around ABT. Sounds like her plan was likely to attempt to get in somewhere in the US and it’s not panning out. As someone who used practice US immigration law, I find it difficult she had no idea her Russian visa would be expired. While all governments are unique, deadlines are pretty much set for those things and the terms are clear. Absent any issues at the actual border crossing her visa would be valid until it expired- and she should have known very well its date.

    I did see she was attempting to get a Russian green card. She has alluded in the past to not being sponsored by the Kremlin which again is bizarre. I feel that a state run ballet company can sponsor someone if they really want to get it done and they just clearly didn’t care enough.

    I can never really tell her skill level but from videos I don’t think she seems like an exciting dancer to watch. That, paired with her attitude and the liability she poses but her youtube channel I can’t see many companies really going for it. It is true that stars like Misty Copeland are all over social media, but she does’t seem to be bashing people or sharing every single little detail about her life like she’s a Kardashian or something. Joy would have been better off staying more anonymous and then attempting to audition around the US. She’d be lucky for a spot in a regional company like Ballet West. For a company that even had its own cheesy reality show (breaking pointe) they still probably couldn’t even deal with her antics.

    To me, she literally embodies the generation Z/younger millennial desire to be ‘instagram famous’. Everything is about perception and optics, yet nothing to back it up.

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