I have been following Joy Womack's vlogs for quite some time. There is no doubt that she is technically gifted (turnout, extensions, line, jumps -- turns are a strength). She is definitely a disciplined worker, with dance and exercise routines that would leave many dancers behind. An excerpt on one of her social-media pages showed her in class with Olga Smirnova at the Bolshoi. Although the combination was brief, it hinted at technique on a par with Olga Smirnova's. After all, despite comments to the contrary on this site, Joy was the first American to graduate from the Russian section of the Bolshoi Academy; she landed a contract at the Bolshoi, one of the top companies in the world; and she landed on her feet as a leading soloist at the Kremlin Ballet, albeit a second-tier Russian company, after leaving the Bolshoi in a storm of fury. Those doors would not have been opened, if she were not sufficiently talented. Second-tier companies in Russia may be smaller and less well financed, but the dancers have received the same impeccable Russian training as dancers at the top-tier Russian companies. The difference is often not in the talent but in the body types and height.
After such an international fury, most would have disappeared never to be seen again, tail between their legs. One has to admire Joy's relentless tenacity and ability to put herself out there, unedited, for all to see -- mistakes, falls in class, less-than-best performances, often make-up free, looking tired and stressed. Having said that, she is no Olga Smirnova, the rising Bolshoi star so beautifully and lyrically trained at the Vaganova Academy.
I have never seen a professionally filmed, front-on video of Joy's performances since she graduated from the Bolshoi Academy, so it is hard to comment on them fairly. Her vlog watchers catch glimpses through the lens of her camera placed close to the floor in the wings or through front-on videos poorly filmed by friends. She does post clear footage of her rehearsals. With the help of her coach, Zhanna, she has perceptibly improved over the duration of her vlogiging. As she is technically talented, it is not easy to rattle off, without thought, why her performances (Odette/Odile, Kitri) fall short of a high principal level. I believe the answer lies in a need for extra coaching in artistry, lyricism and acting. Her performances are, on the whole, technically proficient (notwithstanding wandering fouettes, etc. when she's nervous), but they lack the nuances of characterization, musicality and emotion that we see in top dancers. I personally believe that she also needs to lose a little weight to fit the part of Odette/Odile. I did catch a very short excerpt of her Kitri and was pleasantly surprised at her characterization.
An upside to her landing at the Kremlin Ballet is that she is performing principal roles that she would not yet be performing if she had stayed at the Bolshoi, roles that many talented dancers never get to do. The downside is that she has been thrust into those roles before sufficiently developing the nuances and lyricism that create great performances. Nevertheless, we have to remember that she is still very young -- just 21 or 22 years old, I believe.
I totally understand why Joy is vlogging to create publicity for her prima bars, modelling ballet wear, and signing up for various photo shoots and projects. She has to survive financially. The irony is that it could be argued that such support amounts to indirect sponsorship, although, of course, without casting influence.
It's a shame that no business or dance mentor in her life has cautioned her to refrain from publicly speaking about her co-dancers and companies in a negative way. I have cautioned her in the commentary sections of her vlogs on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, her fans don't offer the same cautionary advice. On the contrary, they offer support. My last cautionary comment was removed, so I am assuming either she or her administrator removed it. I wonder if such removals explain the close to one-hundred-percent support received in response to her vlogs. I haven't checked to see whether my previous cautions have been removed.
Meanwhile, unfortunately, a split focus (vlogs, class and rehearsals, and various projects), the many late nights she mentions on her vlogs, the feeling she sometimes gives of just getting through class and rehearsals in a state of exhaustion, rather than relishing them, and talking negatively about co-dancers and her company will not be conducive to either good relations with co-workers or future opportunites. It's a shame to see someone with so much potential and courage risk it all through such indiscretion.
Will she end up as just another dancer with shattered dreams? Or will she surprise us all and become a leading principal with great technique, lyricism and artistry? That is the question. She is still very young and does have potential. Ten thousand subscribers – fans, admirers, detractors, dancers, customers and curious looky-loos – tune in to follow that journey. In the end what one focuses on is what one gets. The great dancers at the three top-tier Russian companies, the Mariinsky, the Mikhailovsky and the Bolshoi are a testament to the power of focus.
I wish her the best and, after undeniable sacrifices on her part, would like to see her succeed in the Russian ballet that she so loves, with a wise mentor who can guide her through the minefields of both professional ballet and business.