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Joy Womack has left the Bolshoialleges corruption


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#151 Jayne

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Posted 21 November 2013 - 10:52 PM

When I was 20 and traveling in Europe, I was offered money for a sham marriage to bring someone home to the US. 

This happened to me as well.  It was during the Balkan War and grandmothers were desperately trying to get their grandsons out of Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia.  They would wait at train stations and find American and Canadian young women and try to get them interested.  Very strange time, back in 1992. 

 

I don't begrudge Joy Womack for trying to play the game (getting into a sham marriage) at the Bolshoi.  I think she drew the line at taking a rich lover or asking her family for $10k to buy a solo part.  I think if I was 19 I might go to the media as well, with similar controversial results.  

 

She is grieving her broken dream and doesn't really have anyone who can mentor her there, because no other American has gone through what she has. 

 

I reiterate the point that because she focused on solo parts in her final year(s) at the Academy, she never really learned how to "blend in" to the corps, as the other students did.  Still, many memoirs by dancers of all companies have mentioned that first year dancers are rarely cast. 

 

I think if I was her mentor, given the poisonous atmosphere at the Bolshoi, I would have advised her to simply announce that she had an amazing journey at the Bolshoi, but the Kremlin Ballet made her an offer that she couldn't refuse, and she hopes everyone will come see her at her new theatre.  



#152 writer

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 03:26 AM

Let's not forget the first American that trained at the Bolshoi in 1989, Michael Shannon:

 

http://www.people.co...0121005,00.html

 

http://articles.lati..._bolshoi-ballet

 

One of the interesting things he states in the People article is:

 

"But onstage he tries not to stand out among his Soviet colleagues. "My life goal is to dance like them," he says. "The greatest compliment of my life was when an impresario saw the company dance and couldn't tell who the American was.""

 

I am not sure how this happened in 1989 considering the political climate. It is pretty incredible he was able to be accepted back in a time when I am sure not many Americans were in Moscow.

 

Has anyone heard of this dancer? It is strange how no one mentions him when Halleberg or Womack is talked about in the media.

 

 

Back to Joy, I agree that when one is quitting a job, one must try not to burn bridges. I am worried that since her colleagues seem to be taking this all quite personally, how will this affect her new job? The ballet community isn't that big.



#153 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 05:02 AM

I remember Michael Shannon; he competed in Jackson in 1986.



#154 Lidewij

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 05:08 AM

I didn't know his story, but he is currently AD of the Antwerp Royal Ballet School in Belgium.



#155 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 07:32 AM

 

Back to Joy, I agree that when one is quitting a job, one must try not to burn bridges. I am worried that since her colleagues seem to be taking this all quite personally, how will this affect her new job? The ballet community isn't that big.

 

 

She'll have choices to make, as always.  If I were to give her advice I would tell her that once she's accepted a job and started it, she should make it about her job, about what she is doing now, and not about what happened before. Otherwise no one will ever be able to refer to her or think of her except in terms of a scandal, such as it is. (and I don't know her at all, I'm just speaking with experience of something somewhat similar).



#156 Helene

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 08:07 AM

From the LA Times article on Shannon,

"When I was in the United States over the summer, some people would see me practicing and say that I was doing this wrong or that wrong, but they didn't understand that, here in Moscow, this is the way we do it and have done it for more than a century."



#157 Solnishka79

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 08:17 AM

I personally know Michael Shannon through mutual friends that went through the Bolshoi Academy at the same time. He's a very down to earth individual.

He's now director of the Royal School of Antwerp as mentioned and his latest protégée Katherine Higgins was invited to dance with the Bolshoi.

I'm always quite sad that people forget about him when talking about "First American to graduate".



#158 puppytreats

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:05 AM

 

...   Those who should be protecting her have only made her more vulnerable. As I've said before, someone with maturity needs to counsel this girl to be quiet now. The ruckus would die down in due course and she could go on with her career.

 

...That I agree

 

 

...   Those who should be protecting her have only made her more vulnerable. As I've said before, someone with maturity needs to counsel this girl to be quiet now. The ruckus would die down in due course and she could go on with her career.

 

...That I agree with too.  However, I suspect that she and those around her think the "ruckus" will help her career (outside of Russia at least)--they may be wrong, but...they may not be. 

 

 

Her career, or their investment? 



#159 puppytreats

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:12 AM

It's amazing to me how much media attention this is getting.  Don't the LA Times and the NY Times have more important Arts news to fill the paper.

1. I think the press may have been interested because of her being the first in, and her being the first out.  Certainly, the theater wanted to promote her arrival, to attract students.

2. She said she felt an obligation to warn the people who might have followed in her footsteps (which had been publicized by the theater.)

3. I think the open threats by (a) Filin's lawyer and (b) two high level people in the theater, according to the yesterday's article, may have kept the press interested.  (further supporting item 2 above)

4. If you were threatened by high level powerful people, really, how much career do you think you would have anymore, anyway, and would you even care?



#160 vagansmom

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:13 AM

I don't begrudge anyone who uses social media as a tool to promote their name. It's simply another tool like the print media, radio and TV, other Internet sites such as LinkedIn. Other ballet dancers have used whatever media was available in their day to promote themselves. Off the top of my head, I'd say that in recent years the Canterna sisters were the first I knew who did a lot of that. Rasta Thomas. Misty Copeland is being accused by some as finding an avenue outside of ABT to promote her ballet career; those individuals believe she should wait patiently within the walls of the company. "Like everyone else does" is implied if not outwardly stated.

That sort of thing - aggressively marketing oneself - used to bother me. It no longer does. It's done in many other lines of work, and those engaged in the practice are often positively admired as "go-getters." In fact, as I'm constantly being reminded, in recent years, one could be considered a slackard if one isn't promoting and "branding" oneself. I know that I am being urged constantly by the younger professional set around me to do more of this. Luckily, I have a new family member as well as the development dept. of a school "branding" me for the talks and workshops I lead; it's not my cup of tea, but I now admire people who are savvy in this way. I've certainly gotten a lot more speaking engagements out of it! I partly see Womack in this light. I'm speaking specifically about Womack's self-marketing, not the other areas of discussion concerning her.

This aspect of the discussion would make a good thread all on its own if you don't already have one: Should ballet dancers self-promote?

#161 puppytreats

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:17 AM

One more thing: She begged to be given the lowest corps contract but at the same time she put her legs too high and did her steps with too much emotion? This doesn't fit together. The dancing of the corps is based on the abilities of its weakest link, only this will create unison. You cannot fit into a group if you try to stick out. And those who have never learned to follow, will hardly ever be able to lead - that's at least what teachers used to say when I was a young dancer.
 

How does it not "fit"? It just means that she failed as a corps member, and should have been let go.  It is entirely believable.  Then she would just have been a fired dancer who did not have skills to dance in the corps, and was not good enough to beat the competition (through gamesmanship or talent) to dance as a soloist.   If they had not threatened her publicly, and privately, then she would not have felt a need to seek protection herself or warn others.



#162 Birdsall

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:18 AM

Not always, but sometimes speaking out actually protects you. It is hard to get the press interested in an individual's plight, but once the press is actually interested, it will do follow ups, and there are people and/or organizations who fear negative press, so they totally leave you alone once you become a person the press has interest in. At least that was my personal experience years ago.



#163 abatt

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:35 AM

Regarding the idea of self-promoting dancers trying to push themselves ahead of the rest of the pack, I remember an interview with Peter Martins in which he addressed this.  He noted that there will always be dancers who try to push to the front of the class to get noticed by him, but that is not a trait that impresses him. He said he looks at the person who may be more quiet and less pushy, but who works hard. 



#164 Helene

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 09:39 AM

Whose investment? The school got her tuition, and the Bolshoi artistic management didn't cast her, and she's burned her bridges with the company. Her parents don't seem to have much sway: they couldn't talk her out of a sham marriage, which was like buying medicinal tonic from a turn-of-the-century magazine ad.

The teachers and coaches who invested their time in her and believed in her know how the system works: her accusations are ultimately meaningless -- there's nothing new in them, and they're not from anyone who is credible in Russia -- and if they were invested in her success, they knew how she could extricate herself without burning bridges.

As far as being intimidated by Filin's attorney, after saying that she wasn't going to talk about it anymore (to Izvetsia), she's spoken to the NYT, the LA Times, and to Elizabeth Kiem, as well as to a small public group in Virginia. To say, why care now, my career's ruined, that's a short-term, irrational reaction without a basis in reality: she already has another gig in Russia. There was nothing to stop her from saying, "it's all in the Izvetsia statement. No further comment." There's nothing she's said since that enhances her credibility.

As far as social media is concerned, there are effective means of self-promotion, which she used to bolster the "first" category, which isn't even factual, and there is attacking one's employer and reneging, which is a black mark in the social media world. The other thing about social media self-promotion is that performances had better back up claims. Self-promotion may get performers opportunities, but they don't do the singing, dancing, etc.

I think that's different than being the person quoted in the media, because no publicity is considered bad, and that could be catnip to a company that would get immediate press attention by hiring her.

She could have left the Bolshoi and gotten a job with another company, given her credentials, where all of her self-promotion in social media would have been swallowed up by the press, and she returned to the US, it would have been the "Coming home in triumph" story. Even if she had left to go to a smaller Russian company, where it would have hardly raised comment in the Bolshoi -- she's not that important -- it would have been a story to follow in LA, especially with supportive quotes from teachers/coaches who were pulling for her. There was nothing pushing her out of the Bolshoi while she looked for something else: she could have made her $500/mo and continued to be ignored while she worked her connections for another job.

She made herself vulnerable by speaking to the press in the first place: to say that she needed the press' attention to protect herself is a circular argument.

Credibility is th most important thing if she spoke to help other people. If every accusation she's made is true and the behavior is indemic in the theater, it helps no one when the person speaking is dismissed as not credible. It's been clear what a mockery they've made of Volochkova, and she isn't a 19-year-old from another culture. It bolsters the other side.

#165 seniordancer

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Posted 22 November 2013 - 10:22 AM

 


One more thing: She begged to be given the lowest corps contract but at the same time she put her legs too high and did her steps with too much emotion? This doesn't fit together. The dancing of the corps is based on the abilities of its weakest link, only this will create unison. You cannot fit into a group if you try to stick out. And those who have never learned to follow, will hardly ever be able to lead - that's at least what teachers used to say when I was a young dancer.
 

How does it not "fit"? It just means that she failed as a corps member, and should have been let go.  It is entirely believable.  Then she would just have been a fired dancer who did not have skills to dance in the corps, and was not good enough to beat the competition (through gamesmanship or talent) to dance as a soloist.   If they had not threatened her publicly, and privately, then she would not have felt a need to seek protection herself or warn others.
 
Her statements that her legs were too high and that she danced with too much emotion and therefore did not fit into the corps but wasn't given solo parts either, don't make sense. Dancers who dance at this level control their bodies. If her legs had not been high enough for the corps, this would have been a different story because it might have taken a lot of practice to adjust them. But she claims her legs were too high. So she could have put them lower and could have taken the emotion down a notch. But apparently she didn't. So basically, she didn't want to fit in, just participate to show that she was the natural born soloist.

And in what respect do her ongoing interviews to the international media help or warn anyone? As far as I know - and please correct me if I am wrong - the Bolshoi is a government-run institution. Giving and accepting bribes is a crime punishable by jail time. We can sit back and believe that the Bolshoi isn't taking Womack's allegations seriously enough to make any further comments, but I fear that this is far away from the truth. I can imagine that they are running an internal investigation, which will have career-ending and life-altering consequences on people we will never hear about. They will just get fired so that the administration can say: We took care of the problem. And it remains to be seen how that same administration will deal with Womack. She is accusing people of felonies without offering evidence, without giving names and examples, just smearing an entire institution and a group of former colleagues and walking away as the victim whose dreams were dashed.


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