The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Some thoughts on the Moscow Competition June 20, 2017

Let’s get this out of the way: Joy Womack came in 4th or 5th in the Senior division; she’s now something called a “diploma holder.”  I thought her pas de deux from Don Q. was just fine; I was not surprised that her partner (Mikhail Martynyk) got a special award even though he was not competing.  It looked like he was cutting up just before they went on stage, and he was a total delight.

Joy is technically very, very competent, very light, fleet-footed, and sure.  Other dancers sit on their pointes; she gives a reason for being up there: she doesn’t defy gravity, she just doesn’t need it.  Her sharp features were a perfect complement for the role of Kitri (I believe the way she looks at present, Giselle or some other “soft” role might be a real challenge to accept; it would take real artistry for her to work past that).  It was her characterization that seemed to be her downfall; she needs to take it beyond fan-fluttering.  She also needs to remember that Kitri is in love with Basilo and would not be searching for a camera to smile at.  Other than that, Joy’s a big-league first soloist-level performer, no doubt.  She’s almost there.

In contrast (see below for explanation), Evelina Godunova, the Senior soloist gold medalist, was born that way: she’s very alive on stage, very different; huge personality, which jumped out at the viewer after sitting through so many painfully correct academic performances.  She is a born prima ballerina who expands the vocabulary of the art just by dancing; everything becomes hers.  I hope she won’t spend the rest of her career in South Korea.  Nothing against South Korea, of course, but she needs to be on a big, grand old ballet stage somewhere, one that gets regularly broadcast across the world.

Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Beyer won the Junior division.  She’s one of what seems to be an upcoming generation of Americans that is stocked so full of potential superstars that it’s going to be very, very hard for any young dancer who was not simply born that way to get anywhere.  We may be in for an age where girls who may have become prima ballerinas in other eras — the ones like Womack who have most of the goods but need to be polished and polished and then polished again before they can be true primas– end up spending their careers in the corps or as soloists.  This is truly amazing to me, someone who studied ballet in a day when it seemed genuinely gifted, “born that way” prima-material dancers were so extremely rare as to seem almost nonexistent.

Elizabeth is charming and bubbly onstage, not unlike Giselle Berthea, and has a killer technique.  No she’s not perfect yet (either she was badly off the music in her Esmeralda variation during the gala, or there was a difference between what she was hearing onstage and what the audience was hearing, or maybe there was a lag in the broadcast feed).  But she’s fifteen.

And as for the choreographers….well, some of them won awards.  I don’t know why.  There seems to be a great big thing with dressing dancers in ugly workout clothes (or else cocktail dresses with black anklets), and sending them on stage to be tangled up with each other for an excruciating number of minutes.  The music is often just there for noise and not at all appropriate for the action on stage, and the action on stage doesn’t use the stage.  It’s just an exploration of how many times and ways a body can be lifted in the least amount of time possible.  They could accomplish it in a small closet, except for the connecting steps which seem to consist of rolling on the floor.

Did I mention that I detest 95% of all modern choreography?

Some nice offstage surprises included the elegant Evgenia Obraztsova doing commentary and interviews.  She and her co-host swung wildly between English and Russian and it was hard to understand their conversation; eventually a translator was at their side.  I’m grateful for that.

P.S. Womack did it again…she just showed up on my Twitter feed claiming to be a “laureate” of the Moscow competition (update on 6/22: she’s apparently deleted the tweet; at least I cannot find it anymore).  This fits in with her well-established habit of stretching the truth (remember when she was calling herself a principal dancer when she was still a soloist?), because strictly speaking, she’s not a laureate of the Moscow competition.  She’s a diploma holder.  See this link.




11 Responses to “Some thoughts on the Moscow Competition”

  1. Really looking forward to seeing Beyer progress.

    I was at the ABT last night to watch Gomes and Vishneva, two dancers who are past their physical peaks. The one thing that struck me was, even if the leaps are getting lower and the turns becoming more labored, Gomes and Vishneva commanded the stage, even from my partial view seat (and I wasn’t wearing glasses) and to me, he was Onegin and she was Tatiana (even in the early part where Tatiana is only supposed to be like 16). . I still think the one thing that a true star like Gomes or Vishneva has just cannot be taught.

    I think a soloist is Joy’s level. She has the technical goods and her characterization is getting better. But to me, she doesn’t have that quality that Gomes or Vishneva have where you are still enthralled even when the physical ability is no longer there.

  2. I was able to watch a bit of the senior competition, and I too was very impressed with Evelina Godunova. The amplitude she got on her leaps and jumps was extremely impressive. She literally had hang time, so very effortless. She also has a very commanding presence on stage. Definitely one to watch in the future. Bonus points for handling her slight wardrobe malfunction with such calm and grace.

    I also had the opportunity to finally see Amanda Gomes as Odile. I thought her characterization was right on the mark, but her movements on stage were so small. I wanted her to have a much bigger presence. It is interesting that first prize in this category for women’s duet (which Joy also competed in) was not awarded.

    Onto Joy. I’ve been wanting to see her through another lens. She is a highly proficient technical dancer, but she will not for some reason allow herself to sink into a role. While there’s nothing wrong with preening, it shouldn’t be at the expense of the role. Her strong desire to be “recognized” is seeping into her performances. If she doesn’t get over this, it will continue to hold her back.

    • theworstat Says:

      Spot on about Womack’s preening. A couple of times during the pas de deux I saw her literally look for the camera with a big smile when instead she should have been looking at her Basilo with the same big smile, and been unaware of the camera.

      Also spot on about Amanda Gomes. She’s so amazing that I don’t know why she bothers to compete.

  3. I see you updated the post. If you read Joy’s bio from the competition, she’s also still claiming she was a soloist at the Bolshoi.

    • I really wish she would knock that stuff out. It’s not like results and positions within a company can’t be checked in a minute on Google. It also makes her look foolish and stomps on the achievements of her fellow competitors, especially those who placed higher than her. That is not the way to make and retain friends in a field where young ballerinas are easily replaceable.

    • theworstat Says:

      All I can say is, WTF. Yes, she apparently whined her way into a soloist contract eventually, but she was never used. It’s ridiculous.

      • It’s a matter of semantics. Her contract was for an “Invited Soloist”, a production contract rather than being a full time member of the troupe, Like our freelancers at my company are all called “freelance consultants” in the employment agreement, regardless of whether their duties (and pay) are at an associate level or a director level, the invited soloist seems to be the catch all for the guest stars (I.e. Vasiliev), the character dancers who typically play Don Quixote or Lady Capulet, and others who are there at a production basis.

      • theworstat Says:

        Yes, but even after she officially joined the Kremlin Ballet as a soloist, she kept saying she was a principal. I remember one video where she whined, “people don’t know what’s in my contract!” I’m sure stretching language to the breaking point isn’t, lol.

  4. ursulasarts Says:

    In my humble opinion, Joy had the most stage presence of anyone in the senior devision (except for Amanda). That’s not to say she has the characterization yet, though. I saw some nice subtleties in her performance but I think technical requirements got the better of her. Alas, why I don’t like ballet competition. She didn’t seem consistent in delivering Kitri and she can certainly take it much further. Her command of the stage is impressive though and her technique just keeps getting better. I really enjoyed her performance, she looked genuinely happy.

    My favourites in the Junior division, by far, were Anastasia Shelomentseva and Ekaterina Klyavlina – her control of movement resembles that of Lopatkina. I personally like understated performances and soulful commitment to character above all else. Elizabeth Beyer, for fifteen years old, has exceptional technique, I am not surprised she scored so highly, she gave an impressive performance. I feel like the American competitors are trained in the Vaganova technique?

    The competition seemed like a positive experience for all involved, and some of the most significant eyes in ballet were watching them very closely. I’m just so happy we have medici tv so we can watch again and again!

  5. KatiSzed Says:

    Evelina Godunova was a very well deserved gold medal, she was one of my favorites from round 1. Such an easy likable stage presence from the first day, and her choice of variations were very fitting to her capabilities. I love her jump! She easily fills the huge Bolshoi stage and it was really a pleasure to watch her. I hope some major european company snatches her up! She’s a finished, ready prima ballerina and I wish her the very best!!!
    I felt in general the men were on a higher level than the ladies in Senior division, I would have found it a very difficult job choosing the best ones amongst the men whereas it was a somewhat clearer decision amongst the women. I was positively surprised with Joy’s performance – the adagio of the pas de deus was really excellent and it in really looked like she and Mikhail were having the time of their lives. Especially Mikhail was exceptional! Both as a soloist and in his partnering. He was a joy (pun not intended!) to watch. I wasn’t entirely convinced with the Kitri solo variation, Joy was always a bit behind the music and although technically she’s a superb dancer the ‘preening’ took away a lot of the character for me. Don Q was the perfect choice for her 3. Round. I was not crazy about her Aurora – even though it was technically very good it felt unnatural and overly placed. Every slightly raised eyebrow and blink of an eye and pinky finger felt overly studied and ‘placed’ and I found her to be a rather cool, unlikeable Aurora. Something that already felt ‘off’ in Varna when Joy performed was how much she milked the audience applause, and was still bowing and curtsying and taking her time to milk it even though the applause was already dying out while she was still on stage. It’s nice to enjoy to the applause but it’s a bit exaggerated… but maybe that’s just me!
    I thought she might have matured a bit by being not so active on social media but claiming to be a laureate – that doesn’t digest too well with me. If I were a dancer and placed higher I’d be a bit annoyed with her constantly claiming to be more than she is.
    I’m not sure how I feel about Amanda Gomes placing so highly – she’s also an excellent dancer and she portrayed the black swan very well but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Also – after having watched her in Varna (which was really amazing, she blew me away with the ease in Laurencia!) her performance in Moscow didn’t quite live up to that.
    I’m very curious to watch Beyers career – such amazing potential and nerves of steel! I do wonder whether she is naturally so very very frail and thin? I know that it’s easy to dance and have a surprising amount of energy when one is that age (been there, done that) however my concerns are hopefully not justified. She’s clearly very talented. I would defend her being off the music in the Gala because it was with a live orchestra and with her being so young she’s probably not used to dancing with a conductor and live orchestra.
    I wish Lauren Hunter had placed, she’s also in my category of ‘watching for the future’ however a fairly big stumble at the end of her variation (which was pristine until that point!) might have cost her a medal. Still, I like her calm and charming stage presence. She has technique beyond her years and from what I know she got a scholarship at this years prix de lausanne and is currently studying at the Royal Ballet School. She might be a lovely fit in the Royal Ballet in a few years to come, who knows?

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