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Joy Womack has left the Bolshoi

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The sponsorship is a completely different issue that fee for roles, and, if you read the articles in Links, you'll see Iksanov already weighed in on the subject, which is that if dancers find men to give them jewels, that's not the theater's business.

If Womack went to the police to say that she was told by a member of the theater she will not name out of respect -- a director, according to one of the articles -- that she should pay $10K/performance/role (criminal) and find a sponsor to plead her case to management (not criminal), but that she left instead, if the police found her statement credible, they could launch an investigation not of her financials, but of the theater's and any dancers they find may have been extorted.

Filin's lawyer said that they reserved the right to sue for defamation. I wouldn't assume that Filin is scared; it could be part of the monetary damage part of the attack trial, it may be that he's trying to preempt personal liability for any potential untoward thing that happens in the theater, and it could be that he's fed up with letting things slide when someone accuses him falsely, as that didn't work out so well for him when he was threatened last fall before acid was thrown in his face, partially blinding him. Whether it's a smart was to react is another story.

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And it all could have been handled so easily: if Bolshoi staff wasn't happy with Womack's progress, they should have ended her contract. That would be the end of things and all would be legal and above board.

Naturally, if someone is promoted to soloist, but they aren't given any roles, it's going to look rather odd. Good luck to Ms. Womack - I hope she is able to actually dance somewhere.

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At NYCB that would be expected. For Soloists, it's feast for the few who are fast-tracked and when there are a rash of injuries, but famine for the rest when there are fewer injuries. This has been discussed most recently in the AOL online series.

Reading the Marriinsky and Bolshoi threads, it seems to happen to Principals, too, in these companies, and their contracts are renewed for years.

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I don't post often on the board. The expertise and well-worded comments are all that need to be said. I have noticed though that no one has pointed out that this dancer is in her second year post graduation, 19 years old and dancing in a country where she is not native. And she is upset because she's not dancing solo roles. Really?

Yes, if the allegation is true that she was told in essence to buy her solo role, it's wrong but I suspect that this type of "under the table" favoritism is not all that uncommon. I've watched young dancers given solo and even lead roles and wondered why as it seemed to me that they simply were not ready. I've come to look at these overnight successes with a jaded eye as a result. Are they in these roles because they are phenomenal (some are) or is it influence with a choreographer or director or some quirk that plays well in the press or yes, even money being paid to the company by a sponsor (named or unnamed) that brings them to the role?

Is this dancer a reflection of the new generation of dancers who are so impatient that they don't understand the value of the journey and the maturity that experience brings to featured roles? Or a reflection of ballet directors and boards desperate to use any means to augment funds? Is it common to expect to be a soloist in Russia right so soon after graduation? As an member of the audience, I'm paying to be entertained, not to watch a dancer who is just not seasoned enough to be featured. Perhaps if this dancer had been willing to work hard in the corps and prove her readiness for featured roles (like the majority of dancers), she wouldn't have been told to pay for it. If the company did not pay her properly, then she has ample reason to complain but to complain about her casting, well.... that's the entertainment business.

I do fear for the dancer. She's young, disillusioned and making statements to the international press that I can't be received well in Russia.

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It is confusing because in some articles and blogs she is sometimes referred to as a soloist and a soloist contract is mentioned but I only see her listed as corps on the Bolshoi roster. Was she ever offered a soloist contract or was this just internet rumor?

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And it all could have been handled so easily: .

Easy...? AT THE BOLSHOI?! With all that has happened lately the place looks to me like a living nightmare. I just can't imagine how worse things can get there. Im telling you...I was dying of curiosity to take a live view of such troupe when I went to London.

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In the NYT story Womack is quoted as saying “The problem is that I wasn’t even being put into the corps de ballet...I had spent a year waiting." In Anna Rebetskaya's Facebook post (since removed, but quoted in Moskovskiy komsomolets) she puts the blame for this on Womack herself: "You don't remember why they couldn't even put you in the corps de ballet? You really think that you don't have a problem remembering choreography?"

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In the NYT story Womack is quoted as saying The problem is that I wasnt even being put into the corps de ballet...I had spent a year waiting." In Anna Rebetskaya's Facebook post (since removed, but quoted in Moskovskiy komsomolets) she puts the blame for this on Womack herself: "You don't remember why they couldn't even put you in the corps de ballet? You really think that you don't have a problem remembering choreography?"

Womack danced Lise in the Moscow school production of La Fille Mal Gardee and Marina Leonova or her teachers, did not seem to have a problem teaching her the choreography. If she was able to remember the choreography for Lise, she definitely could remember the choreography for a swan standing around, doing nothing, during the Odette adagio.

I consider Rebetskaya as a liar, my opinion.

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And it all could have been handled so easily: if Bolshoi staff wasn't happy with Womack's progress, they should have ended her contract. That would be the end of things and all would be legal and above board.

Naturally, if someone is promoted to soloist, but they aren't given any roles, it's going to look rather odd. Good luck to Ms. Womack - I hope she is able to actually dance somewhere.

If we are to believe Womack, she was essentially working for free at the Bolshoi. Why end a contract with someone who is apparently so enamored of working for the Bolshoi that it costs the Bolshoi little to keep her on. Virtually free labor is the best kind of labor as far as an employer is concerned. I also found it interesting that she is the only person who had to pay $18,000 in tuition. The amount of her takehome pay puts her below any poverty line. What kind of organization pays its employee in cash? The only way this relatinonship was going to end was if Womack herself pulled the plug, which she has now done. (Apparently she was not getting any health insurance, either, since she had to pay for an operation on her own.)

Let's hope that wherever she's headed, she negotiates in advance fair pay and benefits, as well as fair contract terms.

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Darci Kistler said in the "Six Ballerinas" documentary that she had a great deal of trouble when she was in the corps. She described how she would move on the big music, which was the ballerina's, not hers, and that she'd go home in tears after having made so many mistakes, and that's with corps unison less of a priority at NYCB than in the Russian companies. The kind of concentration it takes to do nothing, then move to a specific place in relation to the rest of the group is a different skill. The discipline it takes to try to move exactly in unison is a different skill.

It's one thing spending a long time being coached for a role and being the top student who is the center of attention, and another becoming the low person in the anonymous corps, where experienced corps members know many roles like second skins, have rehearsed the roles many times, and could have little patience for newbies, but new corps members have a lot to learn in a relatively short period of time with little personal attention. Those are two different skills. Most dancers either have or learn these skills, because few have the luxury of being sped through the ranks like Kistler.

If Womack was promised solos and then wasn't given them, she has every right to be angry. Otherwise, she was at the Bolshoi school long enough to observe how long the process takes for solos. The advice she quoted was about solo roles, not paying to get corps work.

As far as the xenophobia of Russian companies, I don't doubt that, but she was in the school long enough to observe and assess her future colleagues, particularly since students perform in many Bolshoi productions. Every time a foreign guest artist is hired by ABT, there are many complaints that the home grown talent is being ignored. It's not surprising that people want to protect their own.

One of the linked articles says that Womack was friends with Volochkova, a young dancer who was angry that she asked many times to dance Odette, the crown jewel of Russian ballets. Not a particularly patient pair, but Volochkova was given opportunities to dance corps and soloist roles.

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In the NYT story Womack is quoted as saying The problem is that I wasnt even being put into the corps de ballet...I had spent a year waiting." In Anna Rebetskaya's Facebook post (since removed, but quoted in Moskovskiy komsomolets) she puts the blame for this on Womack herself: "You don't remember why they couldn't even put you in the corps de ballet? You really think that you don't have a problem remembering choreography?"

Womack danced Lise in the Moscow school production of La Fille Mal Gardee and Marina Leonova or her teachers, did not seem to have a problem teaching her the choreography. If she was able to remember the choreography for Lise, she definitely could remember the choreography for a swan standing around, doing nothing, during the Odette adagio.

I consider Rebetskaya as a liar, my opinion.

I also found that puzzling as well. She also did the Paquita Pas de deux with fellow American classmate Mario Labrador. I also know she's danced in 1 American production with West Side Ballet as the Sugar Plum Fairy last year, and their are other video's of her on Youtube doing various variations. It's implausable to me that she could apparently do that, but couldn't remember simple choreography of standing around in the background waving roses. Joy has said that she thinks her treatment was due in part to being American or foreign. Unlike the West, Russian ballet companies are known for being xenophobic, which was why David Hallberg's Principal appointment came as a surprise since that never happens. In that regard, I wouldn't be surprised if their were some truth in her statements.

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Darci Kistler said in the "Six Ballerinas" documentary that she had a great deal od trouble when she was in the corps. She described how she would move on the big music, which was the ballerina's, not hers, and that she'd go home in tears after having made so many mistakes, and that's with corps unison less of a priority at NYCB than in the Russian companies.

It's one thing spending a long time being coached for a role and being the top student who is the center of attention, and another becoming the low person in the anonymous corps, where experienced corps members know. Many roles like second skins, have rehearsed the roles many times, and could have little patience for newbies, but new corps members have a lot to learn in a relatively short period of time with little personal attention. Those are two different skills. Most dancers either have or learn these skills, because few have the luxury of being sped through the ranks like Kistler.

If Womack was promised solos and then wasn't given them, she has every right to be angry. Otherwise, she was at the Bolshoi school long enough to observe how long the process takes for solos. The advice she quoted was about solo roles, not paying to get corps work.

Ah, this is a good point as well.

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Russian ballet companies are known for being xenophobic

Perhaps, but Brazilians Mariana Gomes and Bruna Gaglianone Cantanhede are very active members of the Bolshoi's corps.

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And it all could have been handled so easily: if Bolshoi staff wasn't happy with Womack's progress, they should have ended her contract. That would be the end of things and all would be legal and above board.

Naturally, if someone is promoted to soloist, but they aren't given any roles, it's going to look rather odd. Good luck to Ms. Womack - I hope she is able to actually dance somewhere.

If we are to believe Womack, she was essentially working for free at the Bolshoi. Why end a contract with someone who is apparently so enamored of working for the Bolshoi that it costs the Bolshoi little to keep her on. Virtually free labor is the best kind of labor as far as an employer is concerned. I also found it interesting that she is the only person who had to pay $18,000 in tuition. The amount of her takehome pay puts her below any poverty line. What kind of organization pays its employee in cash? The only way this relatinonship was going to end was if Womack herself pulled the plug, which she has now done. (Apparently she was not getting any health insurance, either, since she had to pay for an operation on her own.)

Let's hope that wherever she's headed, she negotiates in advance fair pay and benefits, as well as fair contract terms.

It makes some sense that a non-Russian would be charged tuition. To me it's comparabe to having to pay out-of-state tuition in a state college. The residents have been paying taxes to support the institution, so they don't pay as much.

I find it fascinating that Ms. Womack became so single minded in her idea of being a member of the Bolshoi.

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If we are to believe Womack, she was essentially working for free at the Bolshoi. Why end a contract with someone who is apparently so enamored of working for the Bolshoi that it costs the Bolshoi little to keep her on. Virtually free labor is the best kind of labor as far as an employer is concerned

I don't agree that free labor is the best. No one would advocate for slavery. Paying low, unfair, or disparate wages for the same job by the same level and quality of worker, certainly hurts morale, discourages loyalty, and leads to feelings of unfairness, having been taken advantage of, discrimination, and a lack of unity. I am sure women who get paid much less then men, because they don't have the information to know the right salary to ask for, or the power, because other stereotypes or discriminatory beliefs, do not think that free or low paid work is the best.

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Gelsey's second books talks about this, but only in connection with her guest roles.

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Of course low, unfair pay leads to morale problems and lack of loyalty. It was not the tipping point for Womack, but it added fuel to her already burning fire of discontent, and now that is part of the reason she is giving these media interviews. She's sticking it to the Bolshoi- an organization that already is embroiled in controversy and doesn't need any more bad publicity.

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If Filin's lawyer is saying Filin reserves the right to sue, then presumably he means reserving the right to sue for libel or the Russian legal equivalent. (My understanding is that "defamation" can be prosecuted as a criminal offense in Russia, but Filin's lawyer does not refer to anything of the kind as translated/summarized.) What damage to him from Womack's interview? Well I should think depending on how the law is framed...damage to his reputation and all that can ensue from that--and anything of the kind would have to be determined in a court of law.

I think Urin's response to Womack just seems a lot smarter and also more to the point than Filin's lawyer's response, especially if she is not making any claims against Filin personally. But when someone gives an interview potentially trashing one's reputation I don't know that one doesn't have the right to send up smoke signals via lawyer that the person can't necessarily just walk away saying 'I want to put it behind me...' Though it's certainly playing hardball.

It's not that I'm without sympathy for Womack--I'm delighted she found a job with the Kremlin ballet--but she doesn't just say the Bolshoi was unwelcoming to her or is badly run or was late with a paycheck. She says that she was told to find a sponsor and pay for roles.

Agree in full. It sounds as if Womack had a tough time after great financial sacrifice from her family and one wishes her the best in future, but allegations of widespread bribery and/or attempts at extortion are not small potatoes and I would expect Urin and Filin to treat them seriously. The Bolshoi has enough problems as it is. If Womack didn't expect any mention of legal action her parents (and any more sophisticated advisors she may have) ought to have done.

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Her allegations are arguably directed at the company as a whole and not at Filin in particular. The only accusation directed at Filin is that he refused to give her the time of day. That's hardly defamation. Urin reacted with much more composure than Filin's attorney. If Womack goes to the authorities with accusations of corruption, Urin will take them very seriously. If she doesn't, he seems inclined to ignore them.

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I suspect Filin's lawyer may have deliberately reacted with less composure....

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I keep thinking about Eric Conrad, the guy who taught in Russia and came back with the message for Americans studying there that they just wanted their money and to not equate acceptance to the schools in Russia as an endorsement of their skills.

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Granted he is in an entirely different league, but David Hallberg seems to be adapting well to the Bolshoi, even as an American and a gay American in a place that is not exactly the most tolerant in the world.

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I keep thinking about Eric Conrad, the guy who taught in Russia and came back with the message for Americans studying there that they just wanted their money and to not equate acceptance to the schools in Russia as an endorsement of their skills.

I don't doubt that Womack's experience could prompt young American dancers who dreamed of studying at one of the big Russian schools to rethink their ambitions. Or at least their parents will think twice before forking over tens of thousands.

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I keep thinking about Eric Conrad, the guy who taught in Russia and came back with the message for Americans studying there that they just wanted their money and to not equate acceptance to the schools in Russia as an endorsement of their skills.

I don't doubt that Womack's experience could prompt young American dancers who dreamed of studying at one of the big Russian schools to rethink their ambitions. Or at least their parents will think twice before forking over tens of thousands.

I would give the same advice to all the Chinese parents borrowing money from various relatives to send their children to expensive American Universities at "International" tuition prices.

Back to Joy Womack's predicament. After re-reading some of the articles, it seems that Mr Filin did not think Ms Womack was ready to move from corps to soloist. Most 19 year olds are not ready for the soloist track, whether they are at a small company or a large one of 180+ dancers such as the Bolshoi. We've all read interviews with Alexei Ratmansky, where he complained about the constant lobbying from dancers for roles, their sponsors, their political patrons, etc. So it definitely is part of the landscape at the Bolshoi, and maybe Ms Womack was told by the anonymous director that this is the reality.

I have to wonder if all the training for soloist parts at the Academy was a disservice to Ms. Womack? The other dancers were preparing to become corps members, move in unison, listen for the proper beats for corps coreography. She was preparing variations.

That said, with her training, she could do very well at many European companies, or return to the US and dance for ABT, Houston, or San Jose Ballet (aka ABT's Farm Team). However, she will probably still get hired into the corps and need to learn to fit in there.

I wonder what will happen with Miko Fogarty, who is essentially on the same training track as Ms Womack? Will she become the female girl-wonder to parallel Daniil Simkin?

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I would give the same advice to all the Chinese parents borrowing money from various relatives to send their children to expensive American Universities at "International" tuition prices.

I don't think these things are equivalent. A Chinese or other international student whose family pays for the academic equivalent of Bolshoi training -- the Harvards, Stanfords, University of Chicagos, the Michigan State Honors Program, etc. -- and excels is not dependent on that university's management to attend a top graduate school or to get a position at an investment bank. The degree, grades, recommendations, and GMAT/LSAT/etc. scores can be used to become successful in many fields, not to mention the connections that student can make.

The newspaper stories published until today consistently reported that Womack left the company/resigned/quit, but another in today's Links insists several times that she was fired:

http://balletalert.invisionzone.com/index.php?/topic/38060-friday-november-15/?p=329617

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