The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Be Careful What You Wish For March 4, 2017

During my YouTube haunt tonight, I found a new video by Joy Womack in which she blamed her on-tour loneliness on the fact that she didn’t come up through the corps and didn’t “bond” with anyone; also, she reiterated the “jealousy” excuse when talking about how her colleagues freak out whenever she pulls out a video camera.

At this point I don’t know what to say except that it’s getting old.  It’s obvious that she needs to leave Russia, but it’s not so clear as to whether she’ll be happier in another company elsewhere.  A lot of her problem is herself; until she realizes that, it’s going to be same-old, same-old.

ASIDE: the music she uses in her non-performance videos is hideous.  I keep fast-forwarding through it.  Where does she find this stuff?  It’s either repetitious to the point of where you want to scream…well, it’s always that way…or there’s some girl singing in a voice that sounds like she just sucked on helium.  Sometimes it’s just plain weird (once she had background music where some guy was reciting poetry or a speech or something).  Never does it have anything to do with what’s going on on-screen.

Often, this screechy background music is just plain TOO LOUD.

Anyway, on to my next rant…a video series called The Joffrey Elite.

This is a reality series and follows that sick, sad, sorry old formula to the last drop of BS.  The story is that a group of students are selected by the Joffrey Ballet School (NOT affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet!!) to become “the elite,” which is a group that performs at those silly team competitions that are springing up around the country.  You know, like Dance Moms, only with pointe shoes.

Along the way they have the usual staged backstage dramas (“you’re on probation!”) and the usual happy endings (“we got first place in our first competition!”), coupled with the requisite silly challenges (“we didn’t score 100%!”).  At one point I felt like shouting, “you didn’t score 100% because your students aren’t very good!”  Because they aren’t.  They are students: young, unfinished dancers ostensibly training for the lofty rigors of classical ballet.

If that’s actually who these kids are, this series will cost them eventually in real-world terms.  Let’s put it this way: why are serious pre-professional ballet students wasting their time on high school drill-team choreography?  Are they aspiring to be cheerleaders?  Meantime they are losing serious classroom and rehearsal time in the most difficult of all the disciplines of western dance.

Aside from that, the series is so trite and predictable and just plain stupid that it made me wonder why the Joffrey Ballet School got involved in this in the first place.  This particular school has a reputation that outstrips that of the Joffrey Academy (the school that is affiliated with the Joffrey Ballet), which is a young institution that just underwent a major management shakeup and as a result of all this, hasn’t gotten very far in its first 6 or 7 years.  The Joffrey Ballet School, in contrast, has a solid history that goes back to 1953 and has earned a reputation for producing fine dancers.  Kids fight to get into that school.

So why risk it?  What’s the end game here?  Are they wishing for fame and fortune by going down the reality-tv route?

This is not, after all, the Joffrey School’s first foray into the questionable world of reality shows.  They had a presence in the deplorable Dance Moms series as well.  At this point, I guess I can assume it’s a pattern.  But as I asked, why?  Is it doing them any good?

Is it doing ballet any good?

I can only hope that this doesn’t spread to other schools.  I know one company has already succumbed (Ballet West), but I’d hate to see it spread to other companies as well.  The one thing that may stop it is the dancers themselves.  One hopes that if Joy Womack is getting in trouble with her colleagues for filming everything they do while filming herself (a new form of collateral damage), maybe dancers across the U.S. will stand up with their unions and stop the reality-show trend in its tracks.  After all, it could end up making ballet look like one big, fake, stupid drama, kind of like professional wrestling.

One may argue that it exposes a whole new audience to ballet. But when you consider a typical reality-show audience…well, maybe ballet is better off without it.


5 Responses to “Be Careful What You Wish For”

  1. KatiSzed Says:

    I also watched the newest Joy vlog. What’s more tiresome than her repetitious ‘they’re jealous of me’ are her fans that are seemingly convinced that she’s the greatest thing after sliced bread.
    I started watching Joffrey elite but for such a top school this comes across as very amateur. Having been through my fair share of auditions to professional schools this just doesn’t make the cut. (Also the ‘joffrey audition’ clips in Dance Moms were a far cry from the harsh reality of a real audition) It seems like it’s just a sub-brand and doesn’t have that much to do with the actual Joffrey Ballet School.
    On the other hand, even though I’m not a fan on NYCB I really enjoyed the two AOL series they did, as well as the Vogue ‘Strictly Ballet’ series. They were well done and showed interesting insights.

    On a completely other note: I was very lucky to have the time and a nearby cinema showing the Royal Ballet Live performance of Sleeping Beauty. Marianela Nunez was an exceptional Aurora, and Vadim is growing into a true prince a la David Hallberg. Wonderful, radiant performance.

  2. Paz Puente Greene Says:

    What I most miss in the social network era is slow thinking, articulate reasoning and intention behind content.
    This is why I appreciate this blog so much: the intention of its content points to staying true to the original ballet and and an ongoing reflection about what ballet is not.

    As I mentioned in other comments, I am far from being an expert on the art, but indeed in eating disorders. It took me ages to overcome them and I am still bound to the consequences, so I feel responsible of bringing the right information to the potential sufferers and in this aspect, Joy weaves plenty of red flags.

    It’s easy to imagine her (or her teeny groupies) reacting badly to this blog or the opinions of those like me that are not really against her or her way of promoting her career but the questionable role model she is is to adolescents who are looking up to her content with naivety and lofty expectations.

    There are few spaces where accurate information (and warning) can be published uncensored. I often fear that our perspective is misenterpreted as trolling. It’s not. This is very important to understand. My concern includes Joy with real compassion.

    Everyone is entitled to self-promote, to make their lives public and to risk their lives, but to a certain limit. If you have followers with poor emotional intelligence -still in development-, if you belong to a profession that is prone to unhealthy patterns and obsessive behaviour, you owe viewers and followers some honesty so they can make informed choices.

    There’s a big difference between a prima and a parasuicidal young ballerina who admits chronic eating disorders and displays a conduct which is generally self harming, especially if you are obscure about the themes treated.
    There’s a big difference between work ethics and pathological public choices.
    There’s a big difference between telling/showing others how your life is and using your social networking to sell snake oil and orient to unsafe medical procedures.

    We’ve written about the ballerina hacking already.
    Remember that one of the potential risks of autologous stem cell transplant was immune depression and infection?

    Well. Bear with me, please and let’s analyze Joy’s posts last week:

    First we see this in Instagram:

    when you are running a 104 fever

    Una publicación compartida por Joy Womack (@joy.womack) el

    She gushes over performing at 104F fever (40ºC).Usual trick of foreshadowing impening drama.
    Then she goes mia for days, leaving followers freaking out and praying for her.

    Message: dismiss any of your abused body’s screams for rest, proper food and medical attention. Run to the brink. That’s what being a prima is all about. Swallow your Prima supplements. Be a martyr in the name of ballet.

    Three days ago, she writes in Instagram: “Survival instinct is one of the tools cultivated almost exclusively on tour. I am grateful to be home safely after a close call during the end of the latest adventure in mainland China”, and she appears smiling (moon face from… bingeing/purging maybe? Massive cortisol and adrenaline surges from not stopping even when your body is giving up?)
    Message: I am a survivor. To be a prima is to be a survivor. Be a barrier breaker. Risk death, it’s worth it.

    A day ago:
    She pulls a photo from the “Extreme ballerina” photoshoot, which was, in her own words “the coldest, most exhausting and challenging ever”

    and she informs us that she is in “post pneumonia” like she has been at the supermarket.

    Scary and self evident.

    Some of her video titles are:

    “Chaotic pursuit of perfection”
    “How to rehearse on no sleep”
    “Struggle through rehearsal”
    “Danger, plateau ahead”
    “Beginning of a dry spell”
    “How to move forward regardless of your head”
    “Loving the curveballs”
    “Toxic Swan Lakes”
    “Rest when you are dead”
    “Working hard for you”
    “At the end of the rope”
    “Surviving in Halloween in Russia”
    “Accepting the hard challenges”
    “Frigid rehearsals”
    “Solitary life”
    “Turning on survivor mode”
    “Teaching is hazardous”
    “Art = extreme sport”

    This drama-vocabulary would mean nothing in the era of click bait but considering that the average age of her groupies is 15-16 and even younger (according to the appearance of the askers she selects for her Q&A), easily gullible, impulsive, emotionally extreme and worship inclined as most adolescents, it’s another thing. Think these titles as a recorder to-do/to-be list in a 15 year old brain.

    I can’t help feeling concerned, so here’s my unsolicited advice for thosethat read this blog and also follow Joy’s self inflicted ordeal:

    1. The body is the vehicle of ballet. You cannot perform on empty. You cannot abuse it without harming your future career. You should never perform on a high fever because it is deadly.
    2. Pneumonia and lousy immune system are part of the potential consequences of playing with not fully understood and therefore unsafe innovative medical technology. Mixing hyperbaric therapy, autologous stem cell therapy, little sleep, too much exercise, eating disorders and swallowing supplements as if they are legitimate substitutes for right food, proper rest and respecting physical limits is a recipe for disaster. Be humble, apply common sense, respect your limits and stick to basics: eat, sleep, think properly, have a support system, stay in balance.
    3. In Joy’s prima supplements page something is being sold as L-Thianine. There’s no such thing. It’s called L-Theanine. It’s an aminoacid. If her prima mom and herself cannot even care about misprints we have a problem.
    4. Masochism doesn’t make you a better ballerina. It may kill you. Be kind to your future self.
    5. Narcissism won’t make you more visible or a better ballerina either. It only speaks of extreme self loathing, personality disorders and secret desperation. Think it twice before making an extreme person your role model.
    6. There’s no substitute for life balance in performing arts.
    7. Status anxiety, top level apartments, catchy hashtags won’t cover up for your technical issues, your lack of charisma and your obious death wish. There are better and healthier role models, people who knows how demanding ballet is, how precious, how intricate, how meaningful. Joy would be happier if she made inventory of WHY she is in this, because there are a lot of alternatives that would get her the attention, the care, the self importance she is trying to win through celebrity. It’s not easy to belong to a big family, lots of siblings and workaholic parents. Invisibility is one of the feelings that can result from just being one more.
    8. Ballet is an art that asks for the very last drop of your energy and focus. The only rational motive to embrace it is sheer love for it. I cannot feel Joy’s love for her profession and that’s why connecting with her on stage is impossible.
    9. If you want a rational approach to self care and feeding as a ballerina to follow and imitate, watch this:
    10. Do yourself a favor and go youtube hunting of “healthy ballerina”. Really inform yourself about what it takes to sustain your body, your energy and your mind balance in this profession. Joy Womack doesn’t represent health in ballet.
    11. On Joy’s helium voice: bingeing and purging can permanently affect vocal cords and depending on what area of them is most damaged it can lead to hoarse or extremely high pitch voice. I’ve met living examples of both. Also the extreme tension of her neck can be creating that effect. Don’t binge, don’t purge. Period.
    12. On the music (because someone asked), she uses chillstep ambient mostly. The type of soundtrack used by top level youtubers, which she faithfully imitates. She has a souncloud channel and she pulls a lot from / She frequently fails to respect copyrights.

    13. On trashing your partners and peers in the profession: it’s not a very intelligent choice. Surviving alone is stressful. There are other ways of move your career forward, less childish than being delusional about your skills and assuming that those that criticize you are envious. Cooperation is possible without giving up your ambitions.

    Thank you for bearing with me, despite the lengthy comment.
    Thank you for this blog.
    Thank you.

  3. Paz Puente Greene Says:

    Another warning pointer: Joy presents a typical feature in chronic bulimics.
    Abnormal production of saliva (sialorrhea) as a consequence of frequent vomiting or permanent damage of salivary glands due to long term eating disorders (parotid inflammation). Also bizarre changes in the features of face that are not present when she is clearly in a restrictive eating phase (such in past June-July when she admitted to a relapse).
    When she is starving/underweight her face is normal.

  4. I had hoped the holiday break had given Joy some perspective, but I guess not. I see she got invited to a gala that also stars Ivan Vasiliev. (It seems like a last minute replacement as two other Kremlin dancers were on the original roster). Maybe she can use that opportunity to network and find a company that will give her everything she desires: swanky apartment, principal rank, and friends.

    I recently listened to a webinar on consumer trends and it’s all about voyeurism and “authenticity” these days for all brands, whether it’s ballet or soda. So the reality series I just following that trend that we’ve had with Breaking Pointe, World Ballet Day, Misty Copeland, Dance Moms. Kinda like how people now want to know how the yogurt is made, now they want to see everything that goes into that production of Nutcracker.

    That being said, manufactured drama really does them no favors. It makes everyone look petty and it cheapens the brand.

    Speaking of NYCB, I have to say their Saturday matinee is one of the best values. 33 bucks for front row orchestra off to the side and You still got to see almost everything that happened on stage.

  5. Sharon Lakatos Says:

    I am a recent fan of the world of ballet. I attended ballet when I was very young, but switched quickly to competitive gymnastics. I had stumbled upon Joy’s videos by chance. As someone with limited insight into the technicality and form of ballet, I can’t comment on her dancing. I do watch her videos (although I fast toward through much of them) I find her to be very draining. She is very unprofessional, which does come with age and experience. Where are her family to tell her that bad mouthing coworkers and your employer on social media is BAD!? People get fired over Facebook posts all the time. So I think a lot of how she acts is from her family (mom and dad) directing her. I find her dad down right creepy and shady. They are not doing a very good job of helping her transition from high schooler to a professional in the working world and all the pitfalls that go with that transition. So who is left to give her this advice? Surely not her YouTube followers who are probably also teenagers. I’m sure it is her employer, and she has Probrably inturn felt this as unwelcome and unwarranted advice that she doesn’t need. She just doesn’t get it or thinks she is above being professional towards your company and coworkers. Either way, her whole “poor Joy, I’m the only hard working one here” Schtick is so old. She is very good at alienating herself. And if I was a potential employer seeing some of her videos I would see her as a huge liability and all potential in her would be lost. Sad really.

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