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Joy Womack has left the Bolshoi

275 posts in this topic

1. An article 2 days ago stated that two high level people threatened her, and I characterized what Filin's lawyer stated as a threat. I interpret a threat to mean something very different from advice to go learn the ropes, or a whisper in the ear, saying that is not the best way to achieve one's goals.

An article stated? Was this Womack's statement being quoted? or was the article quoting someone collaborating this threat? So far, I haven't read about anyone who has stepped up who has witnessed threatening statements. Characterizing Filin's lawyers statements are not collaborating threatening statements.

2. I don't think anyone can "protect" her and many probably would not even want to protect her. Someone once dumped a body behind a fence across the street in front of my home. They then walked across the street and asked my mother, "Did you see anything?" She told them, "No, I don't know what you are talking about." Did she tell her family? Yes. Did she tell anyone else? Of course not. Do you think anyone else would have been able to "protect" her? At what cost? Would you pay that price? Would you allow your family to pay that price? What would you achieve by it? What would you lose by it?

Since she's touring within Russia currently and seems to plan to stay there, she is apparently not feeling terribly threatened. She has a US passport (unless she renounced her citizenship) and can leave when she wants to. This is not the old USSR.

3. I don't get the impression the 19 year old had a goal to change the way things are done at the Bolshoi. Why would anyone think she did? From what I read in the newspapers, she just said she was mistreated and was told to do things she did not want to do, so she left. And she said, "This is what happened to me, in case you are looking to follow in my footsteps, beware.

No, her goal was to be the first US Principal at the Bolshoi according to her social media. Things didn't work out. She made accusations that she's unwilling to pursue officially. I do think that hers is a cautionary story for any non-Russian who is thinking of dancing at the Bolshoi. It's not an easy place to have a career and advance through the ranks.

4. If she would have gone to file a formal complaint in week 2 about nonpayment, as someone above indicates, do you think she would have had a better or worse reputation? She would have been labeled a "troublemaker", and not a "team player". Her career would have been dead even before the end of the first year. Haven't you been told to "take one for the team"? Only a very few places of employment are text-book, by the rules places. Reality is very different than the what one is lead to believe exists when one sits behind the ivy walls of university or in other idealistic places.

If they owed her money, it's not about her reputation. It's about the employer living up to the contract. I have to respectfully disagree with your statement that few places of employment are by the books. Most are. Many ballet companies are also "union" houses. The rules are explicit and the remedies for non-compliance are clear. These are not Ivy halls or idealistic places. They are businesses. As I stated earlier, she returned for a second year. Why would she come back if she wasn't paid? It makes no sense- like many of the inconsistencies in this mess.

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The US does not allow a citizen to choose to become stateless. Since she's not a Russian citizen, and hasn't claimed to be a citizen of anywhere else, she could not renounce her US citizenship. Russia allows dual citizenship in any case; were she to become a Russian citizenship, she could retain her US citizenship.

Again, she doesn't claim she wasn't paid for the contract she signed; she claimed too much tax was withheld. She claimed that she did informal extra work for no pay, but nothing for which she expected payment.

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The things that MANY Bolshoi dancers have described as "standard operating procedure" are not acceptable by 21st century standards.

You mean not acceptable by our standards. They are apparently acceptable by 21st century Russian standards. It's one thing for Womack to complain about improper sexual advances made to her. But it's not our place as outsiders to protest their system. It's only our place to support Russians who do.

I wasn't aware we were governed by the prime directive.

By this reasoning, it is not our place as outsiders to criticize such practices as female genital mutilation.

While I agree it is much more productive for such criticism to come from within a culture, that doesn't mean we have to say or feel that practices that we find morally objectionable are fine because we are outsiders.

If we thought they were fine, we wouldn't have different standards ourselves, but having to pay if you want to advance in your career is nowhere near the level of being subjected to female genital mutilation.Good roles aren't basic human rights. Money isn't one's person. As I said, sexual advances made to Womack herself are another matter.She has a right to proclaim her own standards. In any case, in general it's teaching by example, not preaching, that effects change, especially across cultures.

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Yes, Womack is her worst enemy. If she were a young Hollywood wannabe actress, this would be the perfect time for her publicist to announce that she is entering rehab for delusions of (ballet) grandeur.

...

1. She is criticized for having pursued (being advised to pursue?) a bad, high profile, (risky?) social media pr strategy, which backfired, and now you suggest she follow a standard Hollywood pr strategy, by going to rehab?

2. By the way, rehab for what? Having had childhood dreams? Growing up? Moving on? Giving up a dream? Not buying the hype? That is not an addiction.

3. I am sure after you suggest that she pursue a pr advised rehab period, the criticism of her credibility for going to rehab would follow.

My rehab remark was meant as a joke. (And NO: I am not insinuating that Joy Womack was caught in doing something that harms her public image, this statement refers exclusively to the aforementioned actors, singers, politicians, etc.) These people do not suffer from addictions and when asked by media outlets what the treatment is for, the answer is "an undisclosed condition". The reason for such a rehab stunt is to get out of the public eye for a while and to reinvent a new public persona. What follows after rehab, is a huge media bash with a big public apology for the behavior in the past, a heartfelt request to not mention these dark times anymore, and a new beginning.

And as much as you may disagree, this strategy might have worked for Womack (better than feeding more international newspapers with her story, today it is THE AUSTRALIAN). Now it is too late for that. But after the initial Izvestia article and the reaction from the Bolshoi, she could have come home to the States, back to her parents and back to her old ballet school, just for a little while. Most of the world would have felt a lot of compassion for a young woman who was so disappointed that she suffered a nervous breakdown and said things that she deeply regrets. But Womack chose to tour Russia and give further interviews. Stating in the latest version that "I want to become a world-class ballerina and I'll find new barriers to break."

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The US does not allow a citizen to choose to become stateless. Since she's not a Russian citizen, and hasn't claimed to be a citizen of anywhere else, she could not renounce her US citizenship. Russia allows dual citizenship in any case; were she to become a Russian citizenship, she could retain her US citizenship.

It just troubles me that in everything I've read she never looked to US authorities in Moscow for protection or guidance. I also know her life has been completely post-Soviet. However this is still Russia, land of pogroms and purges and the ex-KGB still wields lots of authority. The Bolshoi was never an isolated shrine to artistic purity.

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The political and business equivalent of the actors going into rehab slate-cleaner is "I left to spend more time with my family."

I'm not sure what kind of protection she would have asked from US authorities under Russian law. She wasn't being held against her will, threatened with deportation, or forced to do anything illegal. She might have asked a tax expert or US authority to explain the tax withholding situation and to help her work with the theater business people to clarify the withholding issues. From all accounts she wasn't being paid less of a pittance than other members of the corps.

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I think the embassy staff (perhaps one of the cultural attaches) could have given her a perspective on Russian society and workplaces.

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I don't know what they would have told her that three years of direct experience in the school, where the students perform with the Bolshoi in many ballets, or the teachers that pulled for her, or the people in the company who gave her the few parts she had and championed her couldn't have told her.

From her own comment, she thinks the Bolshoi needs an attitude adjustment. I'm not sure US consular officials would have changed her mind from thinking it was her place to tell them how to run their institution.

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It's all getting a little confusing, but here's how it looks from this end.

Joy is accustomed to taking to the different media outlets available to her in order to publicize herself. That isn't a criticism, scores of others do it and some more than her. Her story had a hook, so to speak, so there was interest and it did get coverage.

After her experiences in Russia didn't work out the way she'd hoped, she did what she had done before in order to explain why she wasn't going to be at the Bolshoi. I'm pretty sure she didn't solicit each of the newpapers that has written about her.

I kind of think she would have been better served both in the present and in the future if, once the decision to go elsewhere was made, she would have gone wherever it was, rehearsed, appeared on stage, danced well and gotten "rediscovered" for the right reasons. All of course while privately handling the various inequities still lingering from her stint at the Bolshoi which of course she has the right to do.

But making every iota of it play 100 percent out in the press in real time and not trying to place the right amount of emphasis on what she is doing (present) rather than what happened to her (past) could make it harder and harder for her to be anything but "Joy Womack, formerly....".

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If she continues to give statements and more detail to more media outlets, whether she pursued them, or they pursued her, instead of repeating that she'd made her statement to Izvetsia, has nothing more to say, and wants to focus on the dancing she is doing, that was a choice as well.

"The Australian" is proliferating her claims of being the first American, which isn't true, but that message is working. They're also conflating Dmitrichenko's claims of financial corruption with Womack's, when she specifically stated that she was not talking about Filin, and she hasn't claimed that Filin's sex life had anything to do with her: the only example she gives is of a would-be sponsoring agreeing to be her sponsor for sex.

In "The Australian" quotes, she gives her interpretation of part of Filin's (uncredited) advice, which is that she should corrupt herself, when, given the full advice quoted elsewhere, there is another more obvious interpretation about fitting in socially. Whether this was the paper's editing isn't clear, though.

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What a mess. (Is she a good dancer, BTW...has anybody seen videos of her..?)

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What a mess. (Is she a good dancer, BTW...has anybody seen videos of her..?)

I don't know how to quote from another thread or if it's possible, but Natalia who has seen her live says the following in the thread on the upcoming ABT Met season (I'm cutting and pasting):

"Gabe Stone Shayer's former classmate at the Bolshoi's affiliated school, Joy Womack, would be a great addition to the ABT corps. I'd love to see her at ABT by the time that the Met season rolls around.

I'll never forget Gabe and Joy's respective soloist performances at the Kennedy Center two years ago, when the Bolshoi's school participated in Proteges with Lavrovsky's Classical Symphony (to Prokofiev)."

I myself have seen some video of one of her school performances on youtube. I'm not a professional; to my eye she looked talented, at least as much as someone like myself can judge from a video of a student performance. Bolshoi talented? That would be for the Bolshoi to judge. (But actually, however corrupt the system may be, I don't believe for an instant she would have gotten into the Bolshoi company if somebody there didn't think she had some abilities as a dancer...)

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Joy is extraordinarily good. She absolutely held her own as one of three female soloists in the Lavrovsky piece - she led the 1st movement, with its difficult balances and multi-turn pirouettes, which elicited 'bravos' from the Kennedy Center audience. (Her male partner in Mvt1 was Mario Vitale Labrador, also terrific.) The other movements were led by, respectively: 2nd - Ksenia Rychkova and Vladislav Kozlov, and 3rd - Nastassia Limenko and Gabe Stone Shayer. The 2nd mvt was the weakest to my eyes (a bit messy, compared to Womack/Labrador; Rychkova visibly strained to elevate her leg to sky-high developpe, for ex)...then came Gabe in the 3rd mvt and 'WOW' (I hardly remember the girl, Limenko, except that she has a very pretty 'classic Russian' face). The 4th mvt of the ballet is danced by the entire ensemble and, again, Womack, Labrador and Shayer were the big stand-outs, e.g., Womack's role placed her front-center among the soloists & she began the famous series of non-stop-fouettes that are echoed by the rest. I can only imagine how the Russians in the company may have felt but they were definitely outdanced by the non-Russians in both KennCenter performances that I attended...and, as many of you know, I almost always give top kudos to Russians.

If this was Joy Womack one full year before her graduation in May 2012...well, she had to be amazing to continue and graduate from this very difficult school. (She looked great in graduation vids on YouTube but I can really comment on when I saw her live.)

For the record, I attended the Kennedy Center Proteges performances of March 25, 2011 at 7:30pm, and March 27, 2013, at 1:30pm. I did not see the March 26 performance.

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If she's as good as the review (and I have no reason to doubt that she is), then the advice given earlier by several on this thread to get back to the barre, spend energy getting to the top of her game instead of giving meaningless interviews is the best thing she could do. That, and accept that no matter how talented or what roles she had in school, she needs to prove herself to a director by working to fit into the company, do what is necessary to become a valuable member of the company starting with corps work, show that she can pick up choreography quickly and when cast to cover roles, learn happily while in the back. For goodness sake, someone with the sort of talent that Natalia describes doesn't need to beg for solo roles but when young, these talents need to be savvy enough to become a trusted, valued company member before they should expect to be in featured roles.

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I agree, swanchat. Granted, I haven't been following in detail Joy's current travails but,in general terms, she needs to shut the social-media trap from this moment, if she hasn't already done so.

Curious thought: I'm wondering if, at some time, she was comparing herself a bit with her 'fellow American starlet in Russia' - Keenan Kampa, who got tons of major soloist/principal opportunities within her first 6 months as a corps member of the Mariinsky? Even though they were/are in separate cities and went trough different academies (Keenan at Vaganova and Joy at Moscow/Bolshoi) they've almost been 'Bobsey American Twins' in public perception. If so, she should ignore the comparison because the Mariinsky is infamous for early, often-unwarranted promotions of 'long-legged faves.' I've seen live & tracked both Kampa and Womack and, to me, there is no comparison...to me, Womack is more in the 'Russian ideal' mold, size-wise and use of port de bras, for starters...not to mention stronger tech, such as fouettes, comparing Joy in the Lavrovsky to, say, Keenan in Don Q pdd coda posted on YouTube. As it is, the 'Kampa Madness' seems to have tempered in StPete this season, as it should. So sad that Joy's Bolshoi Tale ended as it did. If I were Joy, I'd get the heck outta Dodge. Every place on earth has politics but at least it's a bit more fair in the USA.

It's really hard to think of one without thinking of the other...The Tale of Two Amerikankas v Rossiya!

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I can't judge (don't have the expertise or experience of watching either Kampa or Womack live) but there are differences. Keenan is older and had two years of professional experience when she joined the Mariinsky; Womack was fresh out of school. The AD of Boston Ballet called Kampa a major talent unlike the AD of Bolshoi who called Womack "persistent." In BB's online literature, Kampa is also quoted as understanding the need to "fit in" the corps. Womack says she's been told she doesn't fit in the corps and uses this as an excuse to say she's only fit for solo roles. Kampa's also quoted on the BB site, “I’ve been struggling with only doing corps stuff, freaking myself out a little from not being able to do solo stuff, worried I might lose that part of my artistry and technique,’’ ... “But after class, I sometimes work on my own.’’ Then this, "she is happy the company offers much more room for promotion than she would have had if she had stayed in Russia. In addition to corps work, she’s rehearsing an “Arabian’’ solo that she might perform in “The Nutcracker.’’ I read the last statement as she was covering "Arabian" and hoping to have the opportunity to do it. Keenan was working and under contract with BB when the Mariinsky offered her a contract fulfilling her life-long dream to work at the Mariinsky. If the "Kampa Madness" has tempered, it will be interesting to see if this level-headedness will get her through slugging it out in the corps there. That experience is not unique to Russia.

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I cannot imagine that Joy Womack's problems within the Bolshoi Company have ever had to do with her technical skills. As much as the Bolshoi Academy may enjoy to collect tuition from their foreign students, the school's first and foremost priority has always been - and in my opinion, will always be - to produce extraordinary dancers. I can imagine that each and every girl that graduates from this academy would be capable of awing an audience with her brilliant technique, if she were given a chance to do so, as Womack was in the Kennedy Center event. I mean, the Vaganova Academy has this 10-year-old, Lada Sartakova, who is able to do 32 double fouettés en pointe. Certainly awesome (and scary!) but not art. And I think Womack's problems were of artistic nature. On the one hand, a 19-year-old girl cannot be expected to be a ballet artist on stage, but on the other hand, this has to be expected from a 19-year-old who wants to dance solo parts on the Bolshoi stage. And the responsible parties that chose the soloists for available roles don't have much patience and I don't blame them for that. They have seen 1.234 Paquita renditions this year alone and as one of my teachers pointed out to me when I was a young dancer: "Picture a ballet director as an arrogant old gentleman from the High Society, who has seen it all, knows it all, and has all the money, all the experience and all the knowledge a person can have. Thank the gods if he doesn't yawn while you dance." And yet, time and again, it happens. That arrogant fictional person sees Paquita number 1.235 and suddenly, he jumps from his seat and is delirious with delight. Not because of beautifully shaped feet, wonderful extension or perfect port de bras (he has seen that 1.234 times before) but because of something else - IT. And IT is something different, something that moves and touches him, something beyond words.

In my opinion, Womack was still lacking this IT factor during her time with the Bolshoi and by asking for solo parts instead of trying to find her place in the corps, she forced people to take a look at her that disappointed them because it was too early for that look.

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*If* she was hired as a soloist (or a demi-soloist rank that is listed as corps) with the explicit expectation that she'd be doing solo roles and wouldn't be doing corps roles, then I don't think it's arrogant to want to dance what one had been hired to do. If she misinterpreted getting a contract for a great love for her dancing and read something into it that wasn't there, then that is her issue. However, the company was under no obligation to give her what she wanted, and she is hardly the only dancer in the company who is contracted and dances rarely.

From the reaction of one of her colleagues on Facebook, and the comments of a Bolshoi staff member (cited earlier in this thread) she had been given a chance to be in the corps roles, but wasn't an effective corps member. Either she was cast in the corps early, and it didn't work out, and later when she asked for corps roles again, the feedback was based in experience, or she was only recently cast in the corps, and she was told it wasn't working out, and she wouldn't get more corps roles. If the latter, it could have taken a while to make the mental switch to learning a lot of different corps roles after being on the sidelines for a while, in a way it wouldn't be for a more experienced corps member.

Womack says she's been told she doesn't fit in the corps and uses this as an excuse to say she's only fit for solo roles.

She said that she was told that she doesn't fit into the corps when she offered to do corps roles. That doesn't sound to me like someone who is insisting on doing solos only.

What I haven't heard her say in any of the interviews to date is, "They're wrong, and it's only an excuse to keep me out." or "After getting this advice, I spent a lot of time to adjust." Since we have no timeline, she may have left (or not have had her contract extended) before she had a chance, or she may have disagreed.

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Womack says she's been told she doesn't fit in the corps and uses this as an excuse to say she's only fit for solo roles.

She said that she was told that she doesn't fit into the corps when she offered to do corps roles. That doesn't sound to me like someone who is insisting on doing solos only.

Thank you for the clarification. Things are a little blurry in this situation.

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This is very strange, as Joy was very happy doing corps work during her first season at the Bolshoi. (I subscribed to her Twitter and InstaPhoto accounts...always very proud of being in the corps in Emeralds, etc.) Unless she suddenly became this egomaniatical monster during her 2nd season, it would be totally contrary to the character that she has displayed through the end of the 2012/2013 season, which was her first season as a pro. This excuse that she 'doesn't fit into the corps' is so lame, so ludicrous. Yes, she has a distinctive face with strong features (very beautiful, IMO) but her physique is absolutely of the mold seen in all Russian ballet companies.

Keenan Kampa *is* indeed very different from the usual Russian corps mold, as she is rather big-boned, in the back, and quite tall. She is a beautiful tall lady with a huge jump. I am happy to read that she may be performing Arabian in Nutcracker, as this would be an ideal role for a statuesque dancer with long limbs and bold moves.

Joy, unlike Keenan, would fit easily, perfectly into a corps de ballet (not that she doesn't have the ability to eventually do solo roles).

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Womack says she's been told she doesn't fit in the corps and uses this as an excuse to say she's only fit for solo roles.

She said that she was told that she doesn't fit into the corps when she offered to do corps roles. That doesn't sound to me like someone who is insisting on doing solos only.

Thank you for the clarification. Things are a little blurry in this situation.

It is very confusing I heard her say in an interview that she was a soloist, but she was always listed in corps on the Bolshoi web site. Also, it's hard to judge a dancer from a few youtube clips, but to me she seem like a strong dancer, but not special. There are many strong dancers who are in the corps of every ballet company.

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It's getting harder and harder to figure out who said what when. I could draw different conclusions from the quotes in the article in "The Australian" and earlier interviews, for example.

Whatever the underlying reason(s) was, it's clear from the casting that Womack was being marginalized during this 6-month contract, compared to her first season.

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Izvestia has obtained a copy of Joy Womack's contract for September 2013-March 2014, signed by Vladimir Urin in October, and the attorneys who have looked at it said it afforded her very few rights. It's difficult for me to say anything about it; perhaps attorneys on the board would like to put the article through a translator and take a crack at it. But from what I understand she was a contract worker rather than an employee, and the agreement does identify her as a soloist. Basically, the theater was obliged to pay her for services rendered, but was not obliged to give her work. The contract stated that she would be paid 1,400 RUB ($42) per working day, but it did not specify how many working days she would get. The theater also reserved the right to use film of Womack's performances at the Bolshoi indefinitely and without compensation. The article notes that the agreement seems to have been sloppily prepared, with typing and grammatical mistakes.

http://izvestia.ru/news/561561?fb_action_ids=178315495698643&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

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Essentially, she was an independent contractor. Why would she agree to such a contract rather than the same type of contract other corps memebers receive? Wasn't anybody advising her? Was she so desperate to become a affiliated with the Bolshoi that all financial and monetary considerations were thrown to the winds?

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