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Joy Womack has left the Bolshoi

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Joy Womack has left the company. In a newspaper interview she said she was told that in order to perform on the Bolshoi stage she would need to find an influential sponsor to advocate on her behalf and that she would have to pay $10,000 in order to get a solo part. She also says she was not paid all she was owed, and that she received nothing for participating in unofficial Bolshoi tours, but that she had done so because she desperately wanted to perform. She has now joined the Kremlin Ballet.

Sergei Filin was unavailable for comment because he has returned to Germany for treatment. His wife Maria Prorvich, his sister, Elena Filina, Ruslan Pronin and Galina Stepanenko declined to comment. However, Marina Kondratieva says that Womack was slow to learn choreography, and that this was the source of her problems.

http://izvestia.ru/news/560562

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Interesting timing given the Dmitrichenko trial.

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Womack says she does not wish to pursue the matter further. "I want to forget all about it, like a bad dream."

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I don't think she can drop a bombshell like being asked to fork up $10K for a part and expect to walk away -- and continue to work in Russia -- without further comment, especially as corruption allegations are being discussed in a front-page news trial.

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The "sponsors" part sounds very realistic. Even in American ballet companies dancers have their appearances "sponsored." ABT even lists the sponsors in their programs, something I always find very cringeworthy.

As for paying for solo parts, I'd be interested in whether this was official company policy, or there's a middleman involved -- a coach or staff member who was shaking up ballet corps members for bribes.

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From what I understand of dancer sponsorships in the US, sponsors volunteer. It's certainly not any disclosed company policy for dancers to have to find their own sponsors.

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I was curious about the "unofficial Bolshoi tour" business--that is, I assume it is a tour put together by Bolshoi dancers on their own steam without the official imprimatur of the company. And probably any number of dancers participate as she did because they want opportunities to perform. If that is the case, then I don't think it exactly is the fault of the Bolshoi that she wasn't paid, though certainly it counts as part of her difficult experience.

I also couldn't help wondering if her being an American played any role in her experiences (eg assuming she was told to find a sponsor, then is it the case that an American, in particular, would be expected to do so).

She is very young and she may well imagine that she can give an interview like this and then put it behind her...As for whether she can...Who knows?

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Where the unofficial tours are concerned, she says she was told her participation would help her down the line. Her suspicions about not being paid what she was owed stem from the fact that a third of her Bolshoi pay was deducted as income tax despite the fact that the Russian equivalent of a Social Security Number was never issued to her.

As for being an American, Womack seems to think that it had a great deal to do with the way she was treated. The article puts it this way, though it doesn't quote her directly: "Oh, she's an American; she must have money. Why doesn't she pay, or why doesn't she find herself a sponsor?" She didn't say that $10,000 was demanded of every dancer. Perhaps there is a sliding scale of corruption within the company.

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The attitude might have come because foreigners pay a lot to train in Russia, so they must be dripping in money and can live without salary and afford all of those roles. I'm sure the theory is that, like local vs. foreigners ticket prices in the old days, a foreign dancer should be paying the foreign price-per-role rate.

I can't imagine that she wouldn't have to pay income tax or file on her Russian earnings, regardless of whether a social insurance number was issued. For one thing, as a US citizen, she needs to file a US income tax return indefinitely on worldwide income. (If under a certain amount, it's tax-free, and if above, she'd have to file for an offset of the taxes she paid to the Russian government.)

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It's also unclear whether "sponsor" is meant in the corporate sense in that she find some wealthy donors willing to pay for part of her training and living expenses as a dancer, or whether "sponsor" is meant as a euphemism for the Mathilde Kschessinskaya-type "patron."

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It's also unclear whether "sponsor" is meant in the corporate sense in that she find some wealthy donors willing to pay for part of her training and living expenses as a dancer, or whether "sponsor" is meant as a euphemism for the Mathilde Kschessinskaya-type "patron."

Volochkova has talked extensively about this...and I'm pro believing it.

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the language barrier may be a reason she was "slow" to pick up choreography. But we've been debating for 9 months now that Dmitrichenko may have some valid concerns about corruption, although his choice of what to do about it was not exactly legal.

If he had simply left with his girlfriend and gone to the Kremlin Ballet (or Mali, or Mik) then he would be in the same position as Joy Womack: performing more often, without the pressure to produce bribes.

Anyway I thought she was lovely in her Ballet Initiative interview and wish her tremendous success.

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Joy Womack, just 19 years old, is the first American female dancer on contract with the Bolshoi Ballet. Recruited at a New York summer intensive, she completed three years at the Bolshoi Academy's rigorous training program before being offered a position in the Ballet a year ago. But there was a catch.

"They told me I wouldn't get in if I wasn't married."

Joy tells me this by phone from her parents' home in Austin. As luck would have it, she is returning to Moscow just as I am leaving. I haven't managed to speak to a single Russian Bolshoi ballerina during my trip; I have consoled myself with the knowledge that they would have been guarded, unrevealing conversations at best.

But now this American girl is telling me that after a year in a sham marriage, she is filing for divorce.

"There are a lot of girls who look up to me," she says, her voice fuzzy on the international line. "I would be ashamed if I didn't show that you don't have to compromise to be what you want to be. I just want to be a ballerina. "

Joy has not yet informed the Bolshoi of her intent. She knows that it will disrupt her application for Russian citizenship, and maybe even her work visa. She wants very much to stay with the Bolshoi, which she says has been her dream for as long as she can remember. But if they insist that, to prove intent of citizenship, she cannot be single, "that's a deal-breaker."

.

Source: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/the-bolshoi-in-the-dark

She basically was hardly payed, hardly danced (even in the Corp de Ballet), told to pay 10K to dance/ or find a sponsor, and entered in a sham marriage? Wow. Props to her because I don't care how much love I have for something, I definitely couldn't go that far. I hope she finds better success in the Kremlin. If not, she should come back stateside. She'd be lovely at ABT or SFB.

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Also, according to this article,via Google Translate, I got that if it is his wish, Sergei Filin's lawyer doesn't rule out taking her to court over her allegations:

http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1153985

Can someone who understands Russian confirm? If that is true, yikes.

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Yes, Sergei Filin's lawyer Tatiana Stukalova says he reserves the right to take Womack to court.

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Where the unofficial tours are concerned, she says she was told her participation would help her down the line. Her suspicions about not being paid what she was owed stem from the fact that a third of her Bolshoi pay was deducted as income tax despite the fact that the Russian equivalent of a Social Security Number was never issued to her.

As for being an American, Womack seems to think that it had a great deal to do with the way she was treated. The article puts it this way, though it doesn't quote her directly: "Oh, she's an American; she must have money. Why doesn't she pay, or why doesn't she find herself a sponsor?" She didn't say that $10,000 was demanded of every dancer. Perhaps there is a sliding scale of corruption within the company.

1. So who pocketed the 1/3?

2. Yes, all Americans are rich, just like all Jews are rich and crooked, and all lawyers, too.

3. Wasn't she offered a job elsewhere and lured to the Bolshoi? I wonder what she was told at that point.

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the language barrier may be a reason she was "slow" to pick up choreography.

It's unlikely there is a language barrier after she spent three years in the school where her training was in Russian.

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1. So who pocketed the 1/3?

There's no evidence that anyone "pocketed" the 1/3, aside from the usual and final destination for withholding taxes, the government.

2. Yes, all Americans are rich, just like all Jews are rich and crooked, and all lawyers, too.

Or, perhaps they assume that anyone whose family can pay the tens of thousands of dollars of fees to the Vaganova Academy for three years of training, for which, unlike for Harvard, no student loans are available, must have money. In fact, Russian anecdotes about Americans often highlight Americans' naievite (to use a mild term) concerning The Way It Is, and don't understand why North Americans don't just pay up, because everything is corrupt and why don't they ever know what the story is and how things work, but havean illusion of meritocracy?

The children of rich Russians who are assumed to have bought their way into the Vaganova and Moscow schools don't get a free ride as far as criticism and stereotyping, either.

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I don't think the problem of rich people buying their way into top ballet schools is limited to the Vaganova. I'm guessing that SAB lets in plenty of little kids whose parents are well connected and who give SAB and/or NYCB a lot of money.

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Speculation and stereotypes about how kids get into elite schools has never been limited to Russian academies. The difference between the Russian academies (and POB and RDB schools) and most North American training is that there is either a dual track for professional vs. high-level recreational training and/or a distinct split at a given age between the two. Ivanka Trump went to SAB as a child and performed in "The Nutcracker" but many children could pass the relatively low-bar audition to general children's training which doesn't become professionalized until ~ age 13-14. There's a reason why so relatively few NYCB dancers start as young children in the school and make it into the Company, and only a handful of Principals, like Fugate, Boal, Somogyi. Scholarships were also need-based, unlike Vaganova and Moscow training during Imperial or Soviet times, which were officially subsidized by the state, unlike now.

The issue I brought up, though, was in Russia, where there is criticism of rich Russians buying their chidrens' way into the school, because a child can't possibly ge rich and talented. Womack isn't the only one subjected to sterotyping.

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I don't think the problem of rich people buying their way into top ballet schools is limited to the Vaganova. I'm guessing that SAB lets in plenty of little kids whose parents are well connected and who give SAB and/or NYCB a lot of money.

According to Bloomberg News, Mary Julia Koch, the now-12-year-old daughter of David Koch, is a student at the School of American Ballet. The sad thing for kids in that situation is never really knowing whether they were admitted for their talent or other reasons.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-05-17/david-koch-toasted-by-michelle-obama-caroline-kennedy-at-n-y-ballet-gala.html

But this kind of influence is hardly limited to the art world. It's widespread in higher education admissions as well.

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It's codified in the legacy admissions policies.

In the case of Koch's daughter, is she in the professional division or still on the standard student track? If the latter, there's little to question, just like there was little to question when Ivanka Trump attended as a student.

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