The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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Another Self-Created Dilemma (or two) August 6, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:54 pm

I remember reading in Natalia Makarova’s autobiography that one of the great shocks for her after she defected…well, there were two:

(1) the demand of western companies that their dancers be stick thin, and
(2) adjusting to the increased performance schedule in the west.

Oh, how times have changed.  Nowadays dancers in Russia often (not always) look like dancing skeletons, while their counterparts in the west look like well-muscled athletes.  The performance schedules in the west remain as demanding as they ever were, especially in small companies — but Russia has more than caught up in that regard.  Back in Soviet days, principals at big companies would wait a month or more between performances.  Nowadays they can be on several times a week, or at least in a month.  Certainly it’s odd that someone who said she wouldn’t consider ABT because of all the guest artists interfering with being scheduled for performances, now has gone AWOL from the Kremlin Ballet because of being scheduled for too many performances.

Yes, I’m talking about Joy Womack’s excuse for going AWOL from the Kremlin (because of her company performance schedule as opposed to her personal schedule).  There was also some mention that a new ballerina has been hired from the outside at the Kremlin.  I tend not to go to their website as I keep ending up on a shell site that says nothing much about the company except for its history; I did finally find the real site yesterday and saw a photo of the new ballerina.  Interesting, to say the least.  Here’s a girl in the same situation as Joy — coming in from the outside and placed at the top — and she’s there every day and working hard even though there is probably rejection and resentment from dancers around her.  This must be weighing on Joy’s mind and possibly contributed to her going AWOL.  Maybe the handwriting is on the wall for her at the Kremlin, who knows.

And like I said previously, and one of our commenters also said, right now it’s not a bad thing for Joy to be out of Russia.  Maybe she knows that; maybe that’s the deeply-held secret behind her recent actions…but I doubt it.  I rather think it’s more like she’s rebelling.  That’s okay; I’ve done that a lot too (am doing it again right now, in fact), as have our readers.

As for her other claim that it’s a millennial thing that she needs to record every little knuckle-crack and fart on social media…no.  I don’t believe in this “generations” nonsense; it’s a longstanding marketing ploy from the 1920’s that has very little basis in reality.  So no, it’s not “a millennial thing,” everyone is not doing it.  These days the majority of dancers in professional ballet companies were born after 1989 — the latest definition of a millennial (because it’s BS, the definition keeps changing, much as the earlier definition of a “baby boomer” has changed).  The majority of of the under-30 crowd do not produce videos of every moment of their working lives.

That is to say that use of social media is an individual thing, not a generational one, and this individual thing is one that the Kremlin has chosen as a problem they have with Joy.  Employers will sometimes choose to have problems about things like this when they want to get rid of you.  They will also hire others to do your job when they want to get a point across.

But making videos is also, as I have mentioned in the past, downright inconsiderate to the dancers around her.  There is a way around this — film only yourself, as a young dancer in the Oklahoma City Ballet is now doing — but Joy hasn’t done that in the past and has been only a bit more careful recently.

That is to say that she’s going to run into the same objections no matter where she goes, probably even in southeast Asia.  She hasn’t posted a video in a few days, so who knows how her audition with the Hong Kong Ballet went.  But I’m wondering if she’s reached the end of the road as far as working for ballet companies is concerned — she’s now inching toward her mid-20’s and has a bad track record for reliability.  Maybe her only way out now is teaching and perhaps performing at the head of her own troupe, but that takes tenacity, which she has only shown to the degree of being willing to physically torture herself in order to become something that she possibly isn’t.

We’ll see.

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9 Responses to “Another Self-Created Dilemma (or two)”

  1. ursulasarts Says:

    My interpretation of what Joy said in one of her recent vlogs about her reason for leaving, or ‘not going back’, isn’t so much to do with the intense scheduling but what they expect from her artistically. She said she isn’t a circus animal, and that’s she’s there for more than just tricks. I suspect they were pushing the technical side for these high profile competitions, especially Moscow, and perhaps she realized it’s not the type of performer she wants to be. Just my two cents! Because honestly Joy has put up with far more gruelling scheduling and gotten on with it. I’m sure she’s being careful with her words and there’s more too it than too many performances.

    • theworstat Says:

      I agree with you; there has to be more to it than the performance schedule. She also recently mentioned that she doesn’t really feel in place in the classical/romantic roles — that might be part of the problem, too. She does have a powerhouse technique and might do well in a company with a lot of modern choreography.

      • ursulasarts Says:

        She’s definitely a modern ballerina! In her latest vlog her dancing (Swan Lake) looks very lovely. It’s strange because sometimes she looks world class and sometimes she doesn’t. I think her state of mind and happiness in her environment have a lot to do with it. She seems to have a strange relationship with her coach too. Sometimes she seems supportive of Joy’s vlogging but now it seems like she’s not. Honestly when I was at ballet school and I started doing more with video, it was a sign that ballet wasn’t for me. I’m now a filmmaker. I wonder if ballet is the right thing for Joy deep, deep down. I hope it is because she’s working very hard at it, but I wonder if she’d been born fifty years earlier when legs weren’t so high she would still have liked ballet for the art form. She never talks about the interpretation of a role, only the physical preparation. Anyway, I’m digressing. Only time will tell where she goes from here!

      • theworstat Says:

        Excellent point; I don’t think ballet would still exist if it hadn’t turned into a sort of gymnastics!

  2. Didn’t Joy complain about not getting Nikya this year, even though she was already dancing Gamzatti? Nikita is a romantic, lyrical role. Was the issue really more about wanting to play the heroine?

    On the subject of self-promotion and social media, I agree that famewhores (sorry for the lack of a more polite term) exist in every generation but the sharing of every bowel movement is something that’s more prevalent now thanks to social media and data shows that millennials are more likely to share things than the older generation. I mean, did you know that watching people eat on a live stream is actually a thing in Korea?

    But there is a difference, I think, between David Hallberg eating Mexican food and Joy Womack posting a manifesto about professional behavior and jealousy. One is simply sharing and thinking people are actually interested in what you eat (although I do follow Marcelo Gomes’ food account because food instagram posts are my guilty pleasure). The other is blatant “I’m special and you’re not”.

    • theworstat Says:

      May I share this as a post?

      • Sure but here’s an edited version (as I wrote it quite early).

        Didn’t Joy complain about not getting Nikya this year, even though she was already dancing Gamzatti? Nikiya is a romantic, lyrical role. Was the issue really more about wanting to play the heroine?

        On the subject of self-promotion and social media, I agree that famewhores (sorry for the lack of a more polite term) exist in every generation but the sharing of every bowel movement is something that’s more prevalent now thanks to social media and data shows that millennials are more likely to share things than the older generation. I mean, did you know that watching people eat on a live stream is actually a thing in Korea?

        But there is a difference, I think, between Marcelo Gomes eating pork buns and Joy Womack posting a manifesto about professional behavior and jealousy. One is simply a “look at my awesome life” that’s no different than your friends who share pics of their vacation to Bali or your neighbor revving up the engine really loudly when he gets a new car, except the audience is in the thousands rather than a few people. The other example is blatant self-promotion that sometimes involves using others without their consent and painting them in a negative light in order to advance an image of superiority. While one may or may not care what Gomes eats (I actually follow his food account because Food instagram accounts are a guilt pleasure of mine) in the end, it’s harmless. On the other hand, I don’t think one needs to explain why using YouTube as a sounding board for your work place troubles is a good idea.

      • theworstat Says:

        Thanks, I’ll post it now.

  3. Well, concerning Joy’s “falling out” with the Kremlin I suspect that they Moscow Ballet Competition was the turning point – I am not sure whether the Kremlin “sent” here or she went on her own initative…But I suspect they weren’t happy with her performance there, and with her not having won a medal. Might be that in the wake of this, someone gave her “a good talking to” and warned her to “get her act together” and that did not sit well with her.

    I was also aware of the apparent change in the relationship with her teacher – there is one earlier video where she bursts out crying because that woman called her “fat”, which probably triggered her condiering her background in eating disorders and body image. At other points, she speaks highly of her, saying that she “loved her to bits and pieces”. But she also mentions her teacher was OK with her filming and the only reason I think that has changed is because the teacher was told “from higher up” to “relay certain things to her” – I picked up somewhere that the teachers/coaches in Russian ballet companies can act as kind of an intermediary between the dancers and the powers-that-be.

    Perhaps the Kremlin feels that doing so much stuff on the side is harmful for her career because it takes her attention away from working on what she should be working on – developing her repertoire and gaining profile precisely by taking part in competitions. And as for “doing things on the side” – I noticed that she goes to the gym a lot…Which is in itself not a bad thing, but she seems to be aking it a bit too far. The job of a ballet dancer in equivalent to high-power sports as far as the physical demands are concerned, and she seems to be “piling on” by putting in between one and three hours at the gym – there is one video where she seemed to be in distress about something at the workplace, and she admitted to working that off by three hours’ Pilates and cardio. So by doing this training in addition, she might actually be defeating her purpose and, who knows, exposing her to the danger of injury all the more.

    That injury she had while still a student was a stress fracture – and I do remember she had another one not very long ago, quite likely on the same foot. I wonder about those fancy treatments she has been taking back home – something involving injections of “platelet rich plasma” and “hyperbaric chambers”.She seems to be having these every once in a while – I think last year it was two or three times – so I wonder whether her body is already too much “beyond repair” for this treatment to work, or if this treatment is effective at all (I’ve researched it a bit; there is no conclusive scientific evidence as to if and how this works) and she might be deceiving herself. At any rate, she reoprted being in pain after each of these procedures, as well as running temperatures, so I’m very doubtful about the whole thing.


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