The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

From Paz Puente, re Ballet and Health March 6, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 2:21 am

Again, another comment that I just have to turn into a post.  Thank you for the kind words, Paz Puente.  Everyone, please read this.  And before you get very upset, remember that this isn’t just about Joy, but what she and other dancers insist on doing to themselves (think about Misty Copeland dancing for months on a broken leg):

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:

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.


6 Responses to “From Paz Puente, re Ballet and Health”

  1. First off excellent post. Thank you Paz!

    So on to some comments. Last year, Joy had to take a week off after hurting her foot and, as she doesn’t get the ballet equivalent of sick time, they docked her pay big time. Someone like Obraztsova can say “I am sick so I won’t be able to perform on Saturday” and it won’t be completely disastrous, because she can make up the lost performance revenue by tacking a guest appearance into her schedule . Joy doesn’t have that clout and the Kremlin ballet has 4-5 performances a month as opposed to 4-5 performances a week a company like the Bolshoi has. And it’s probably the case for most dancers where they need to perform or else they don’t get paid their already small salary and don’t have other ways of making up for it

    That being said, she reminds me somewhat of the Tracy Flick character from Election. Extremely ambitious, overachieving, and looking down on her peers for being “immature” and not working like she does. And that movie ended with Tracy Flick being friendless.

    As I had mentioned earlier, she danced in a gala that had Ivan Vasiliev and she talked about being part of “the circuit”. Not sure one can make that claim when the rest of the cast of that gala were from minor Russian theatres or minor corps members of Bing theatres. But anyway, you see the difference between someone like Vasiliev and someone like Joy. Vasiliev jets from performance to performance and can’t (or won’t) attend class. His technique seems to get wonkier every year. But at the end of the day, you watch him dance Basil and you forget all that. Ivan Vasiliev isn’t the superstar because he lives in the studio. What he has, the ability to take ones breath away, to make even non-ballet fans go “wow” cannot be taught by countless hours of Pilates. And further, he also has a wife and a child, drinks beers with corps members, hangs out like a regular guy. He has a life.

    • malonek Says:

      The way of paying their dancers at the Kremlin is kind of weird though. I read a Russian interview with a Russian corps dancers who works at the Stanislavsky in the corps and she earns about 50000 roubles. They even are allowed to take some 2 “period days” off every month or so. A corps dancer, compare that to Joy’s status and her self-claimed 16000 roubles per month. I don’t want to imply she’s lying, but there’s somehing weird and I feel like she’s not telling us the whole truth.

      • I can believe the Kremlin pay rate is that much lower than the Stanislavsky. If one were to make comparisons to an American company, it would be closer to to Houston or Sarasota than San Francisco. Judging by the size of the studio and the frequency of their performance schedule, I don’t imagine it to be as well funded. Which brings us to the question we’ve been asking and that’s “why is she still there?” If I was at a job with a crap salary and co-workers I don’t like, I would have left. Is it that important to be a Prima?

      • malonek Says:

        I believe she wouldn’t like being at any company long-term, as nothing would “fit” her. I don’t want to start any hate here, but it seems to me she is a difficult personality to get along with.

  2. KatiSzed Says:

    What a great post! I wish the people that need these insights the most would read it. The comments on a lot of her videos could be seen as worrying – so many if her fans support and encourage her behavior.
    I think there’s much more than meets the eye with Joy – I’ve also wondered how much truth is behind her financial claims. (after all, her colleagues are making ends meet and most of them probably don’t have the luxury of a swanky apartment with a home studio and snazzy gym memberships) Her patreon account clearly isn’t doing much. Also, when she was whining about not being able to go home to visit her family in the middle of the season, yet 3 days later she was on a plane? Long distance flights like that aren’t cheap – especially not if you’re traveling on such short notice.
    I’ve always said that bashing your job on the internet is not smart. That is most likely already coming back to haunt her if she’s looking to switch company and nobody wants to hire her.
    Well, I guess she would just wake up on day and realize that she’s seeing the world in a warped way. That for one thing not everyone is jealous of her (that’s just a tired excuse by now) and that she’s being incredibly self-destructive with her behavior – both online and off.

  3. Russia Today (an admittedly pro Putin English language news channel) has been uploading a documentary series on ballet. With the exception of some features on the Vaganova Academy, the main focus has been on second tier Russian companies. The most recent episode featured a dancer who was joining the Kremlin Ballet and his first big role there. This provides another perspective on the company outside of the Joy Womack bubble and the impression I got was that the dancers do their own thing and are not concerned with other people’s dramas unless it somehow affects their own ability to work.

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