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Joy Womack to join Boston Ballet

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She's listed on the Boston Ballet website as a "Coming Soon" artist, which is the corps member level. 

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Very interested to see how this turns out....being just a face in the corps at this point in her life. We shall see.

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I think that it might be a good thing for Joy to settle into progressing through the ranks . . . She has it in her and will likely ascend and we will likely see her dancing advance. She needs to keep her life balanced. 

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On 8/3/2019 at 7:15 AM, balletforme said:

I think that it might be a good thing for Joy to settle into progressing through the ranks . . . She has it in her and will likely ascend and we will likely see her dancing advance. She needs to keep her life balanced. 

I agree. I have seen her dance live, and I do believe she has it in her to get promoted, and quickly.

 

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Posted (edited)

I have a question in general for you "insiders" 😉

I´m from Germany and I just started to follow the ballet life in different countries. My observation is that in Russia and Paris for example the female dancers have to be thin as stick and have to embody the fragility of an "Odette", no ifs and buts, everything else is "fat" and "un-showable". No matter what that do to the health of the dancers if they aren´t naturally skinny. In America, to my joy, there seem to be healthy athletic women on top like Misty or Ashley Bouder for example, and even Kathy Morgan got a job with a way more healthy body weight than she had in her beginnigs I think. So I was all the more surprised when I looked at the instagram account of Joy after her announcement - and was, let´s say, just shocked (that´s all I will say about this theme). Were my observations wrong? Are there so big difference between the companies? Or between soloists and corps?


 
 

 
Edited by Petso

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6 hours ago, Petso said:

I have a question in general for you "insiders" 😉

I´m from Germany and I just started to follow the ballet life in different countries. My observation is that in Russia and Paris for example the female dancers have to be thin as stick and have to embody the fragility of an "Odette", no ifs and buts, everything else is "fat" and "un-showable". No matter what that do to the health of the dancers if they aren´t naturally skinny. In America, to my joy, there seem to be healthy athletic women on top like Misty or Ashley Bouder for example, and even Kathy Morgan got a job with a way more healthy body weight than she had in her beginnigs I think. So I was all the more surprised when I looked at the instagram account of Joy after her announcement - and was, let´s say, just shocked (that´s all I will say about this theme). Were my observations wrong? Are there so big difference between the companies? Or between soloists and corps?



 
 


 

So, one may note that the Mariinsky has dancers like Renata Shakirova and Maria Bulanova, and the US has dancers like Bouder and Copeland, as you’ve noted, and generally, in all of those companies, those dancers are more the exception than the rule.

But if you’ve ever seen the dancers that you’ve mentioned above up close in real life, you’ll realize that they’re also very, very lean — when you see a difference in aesthetics, it’s more often about the way their muscles are distributed and their individual bone structures than any particular body fat percentage. So it doesn’t, necessarily, make complete sense to think about it in terms of “healthy” and “skinny”; it might make more sense to think about it in terms of “body type” (that is, the way they came out of the womb, rather than the way they condition their instruments today).

So why, then, might someone see more of a variety of body types in American stages? One factor is the difference in the dance education systems. In Russia, and also in China, the ballet schools are connected to the state, with significant government funding, and many students are selected for intense training at an early age, based on an evaluation of the physical potential and “lines” they possess as children, before they receive significant training.

But the process by which the elite US ballet schools take in and produce students is fundamentally different, and that leads to some changes in the dancers they produce. Many of the company-connected schools (such as those connected to New York City Ballet or San Francisco Ballet) take their star students only for the last two or so years of training, after students have completed the majority of their training at local schools. There’s generally a shift in the selection process for the elite schools for those last two to three years — pure physical potential is less heavily emphasized, while already developed skills (i.e., technique, musicality) start to become more and more important. 

(Side note: There is an enormously influential American ballet school that trains children intensely at an earlier age (on a schedule that likely more closely approximates that of the state-run schools), Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, but it also takes all comers, without requiring that prospective students pass an audition process like the Russian schools’. Many dancers who trained at this school, including Bouder, became stars in American ballet companies—and many of them have more “athletic” bodies.)

All of this is to say that you may not be witnessing the results of a particular pressure or aesthetic preference (or a particular difference in the diets of individual dancers), but rather, a difference in the “body types” of the dancers who reach the top. All the same, most major American companies have many, many, many more dancers who look like what you’ve identified as the “Russian” look than the Bouders, Copelands, or Morgans of the ballet world.

P.S. I know that I am not in a position to evaluate the healthiness of a particular individual from photographs or videos alone, and I’d sound a word of caution. Just recently, posters on this forum were quite concerned about an American dancer at a major US company looking shockingly thin, only for the news to come out that at the time of the performances where she looked particularly slender, she was in the early stages of her pregnancy!)

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Posted (edited)

I used to watch her vlogs a few years ago while she was in her early years with the Kremlin Ballet after leaving the Bolshoi... She crossed my mind today and I was wondering what she was up. Great news for her! I hope she can thrive there and find a home for the years to come.

Edited by sohalia

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On 8/10/2019 at 5:01 PM, tutu said:

P.S. I know that I am not in a position to evaluate the healthiness of a particular individual from photographs or videos alone, and I’d sound a word of caution. Just recently, posters on this forum were quite concerned about an American dancer at a major US company looking shockingly thin, only for the news to come out that at the time of the performances where she looked particularly slender, she was in the early stages of her pregnancy!)

I admit being guilty to this. I also thought that the tired performances that were without her usual spark were a result of the weight loss. Now I know that it was probably first-trimester fatigue!

But about how a dancer "looks" onstage I was once standing next to a Russian ballerina renowned for her long, lithe body lines. And while she looked like a million bucks and was indeed very slim, I was surprised to see she did not look nearly as waif-like as she did onstage. Up close I could see how much MUSCLE definition she had -- her arms had the taut muscles of a professional athlete. What she does have onstage is incredible proportions that allow her to look extremely thin. Offstage if you had told me she was a professional runner I would have believed you. 

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On 8/10/2019 at 6:18 AM, Petso said:

I have a question in general for you "insiders" 😉

I´m from Germany and I just started to follow the ballet life in different countries. My observation is that in Russia and Paris for example the female dancers have to be thin as stick and have to embody the fragility of an "Odette", no ifs and buts, everything else is "fat" and "un-showable". No matter what that do to the health of the dancers if they aren´t naturally skinny. In America, to my joy, there seem to be healthy athletic women on top like Misty or Ashley Bouder for example, and even Kathy Morgan got a job with a way more healthy body weight than she had in her beginnigs I think. So I was all the more surprised when I looked at the instagram account of Joy after her announcement - and was, let´s say, just shocked (that´s all I will say about this theme). Were my observations wrong? Are there so big difference between the companies? Or between soloists and corps?



 
 


 

The question is understandable! 

As others have mentioned, the U.S. increasingly accepts a wider-range of body types than you might see elsewhere. It appears that there’s certain sensitivity from directors and audiences when it comes to the dancers’ mental health and personal body image — at least, moreso than in the past. Bigger, athletic dancers are “beasts” (a good thing!) and very thin dancers are…well, they’re always in vogue, aren’t they? 

This bit is unpleasant, so bear with me. But as you may remember, a Boston Ballet dancer very unfortunately passed away from an eating disorder in the ’90s. To me that marked the end of a period when American dancers were expected to fit in a one-very-small-size-fits-all box. And after all, if a dancer’s body skews toward the heavier size for a dancer, that would still place them in the normal/healthy range for a typical person. Alternately, when a slender dancer becoming noticeable thinner it could conceivably mean a health concern. In other words, dancers who are “too big” are rarely the potential liability a “too small” dancer would be. 

Given Boston Ballet’s history, I assume they are acutely aware of that. 

If she got a job with Boston, they’re bound to be monitoring it — especially if they’ve also stumbled upon the vlogs and content from Joy’s past where she speaks about her disordered eating habits. I’d also note that it’s social media we’re referring to. How much of Instagram is reality?

Still, I hear you. It’s hard to keep up with the ever-changing physics of certain dancers. 

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Aren't there actual weight requirements at Paris Opera and Bolshoi?  My understanding was that is was 50kg for women at the Bolshoi. 

I really do find that the Russian companies, in particular, actually DO favor a very, very thin look, achieved by whatever means possible. I follow about 10 such dancers and ALL are quite different in their look than American dancers (much, much, much thinner.). 

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I'm not really sure I understand how a company can monitor health?  You need more than just a scale.  

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2 hours ago, Balletwannabe said:

I'm not really sure I understand how a company can monitor health?  You need more than just a scale.  

Well yes, there has to be medical staff available on a daily basis, and, they would have to have decided what is an acceptably 'healthy' condition for their dancers to be in. But that's where we will find disagreement as to what is healthy and beneficial to the dancers.

There have been many dance companies that seemed to worry little about the dancer's physical and mental well being.

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On 8/14/2019 at 10:56 PM, canbelto said:

I admit being guilty to this. I also thought that the tired performances that were without her usual spark were a result of the weight loss. Now I know that it was probably first-trimester fatigue!

But about how a dancer "looks" onstage I was once standing next to a Russian ballerina renowned for her long, lithe body lines. And while she looked like a million bucks and was indeed very slim, I was surprised to see she did not look nearly as waif-like as she did onstage. Up close I could see how much MUSCLE definition she had -- her arms had the taut muscles of a professional athlete. What she does have onstage is incredible proportions that allow her to look extremely thin. Offstage if you had told me she was a professional runner I would have believed you. 

I was thinking it too, just not posting! It was a good reminder for me.

I’ve experienced the same thing (and also the flip side — meeting dancers who are larger onstage but near-skeletal in person). Bone structure and muscle distribution really determine a lot about the way somebody appears on the stage, and there’s a limit to how much diet or cross-training can alter that.

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