American ballet dancer accuses Bolshoi of extortion

Bolshoi faces another scandal with American dancer's accusations. Source: Reuters

Bolshoi faces another scandal with American dancer's accusations. Source: Reuters

First American dancer to ever graduate from the Bolshoi Academy says the theater asked her for thousands to get the part she wanted.

An American ballet dancer famous for becoming the first to study under contract with the Bolshoi has accused theater employees of demanding $10,000 from her to dance as a solist with the company.

Joy Womack told the newspaper Izvestia that she was asked to dance as a soloist with the company.

“They told me: Good job, Joy, Sergey Filin will come back now and he will decide what to do with you further,” Womack said. “And when he came he said: No, this girl should remain in the corps de ballet. I was told: Joy, you do not have a sponsor, you must have a sponsor, someone who can speak for you, it is no longer possible to work in any way in our theater.”

That’s when, according to Womack, she was told that she needed to pay “$10,000 for variations, to come on the stage in one performance, to get a part.”

This amount was announced by a specific person, but I will not name him – because I really respect him,” she said.

Vladimir Urin, the general director of the Bolshoi Theater, said the theater was ready to cooperate in the investigation: “The leadership of the Bolshoi Theater, if necessary, is ready to assist law enforcement authorities in the investigation of all the circumstances of this case.” In addition, Urin advised Womack to ask the police for a further investigation.

However, the ballet dancer is not going to sue the employees of the Bolshoi Theater. “I want to forget all this like a bad dream,” she said. After being fired from the Bolshoi, she signed a contract with the Kremlin Ballet, which performs in the Kremlin Palace of Congresses.

Womack joined the Bolshoi Academy in 2009 at the age of 15 after meeting with the rector of the Moscow Academy of Choreography, Marina Leonova, during a tour by the Bolshoi in the United States. She has said she dreamed of studying in Russia before, and even studied in the Kirov Ballet Academy in Washington that, in her opinion, was like the Vaganov Academy in St. Petersburg.

After graduating from the Academy of Choreography in 2012, the Bolshoi signed a contract with Womack and she began working in the corps de ballet.

Now, after being fired from the Bolshoi, Womack said the theater started demanding money for solo parts.

Womack said her troubles began after Filin returned to the company. Filin, who has served as the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet since 2011, was attacked in January 2013, when he was attacked with acid by an unknown assailant. Filin has been undergoing treatment in Gernany and was not available for comment on Womack’s accusations.

Marina Kondratyeva, Womack's teacher and the choreographer and coach of the Bolshoi Theater, said she believed life at the Bolshoi was difficult for the American dancer.

Bolshoi's secrets: Backstage tour of Russia’s premier theater. Source: Vimeo

“She did very well in the academy, she went through the competition, and she was taken into the company. However, she still has a different school and training,” Kondratyeva said. “She doesn’t remember her moves well and spends a lot of time learning them. And as the repertoire is large, it is difficult for her.”

Kondratyeva also said that all novice artists have to go through the corps de ballet and should not feel offended.

Womack has refused to comment on the interview. Journalists from the newspaper Metro contacted her shortly after the story came out, and were told that she was on a tour and preparing for a performance. “I do not have access to the Internet, and so I cannot read this interview to comment on what is written there,” she is said to have replied

Colleagues and ballet lovers had different reactions to Womack’s accusations.

Anna Rebetskaya, Joy’s colleague in the Bolshoi, wrote a large post on Facebook dedicated to this scandal:

“Joy, why do you respect so much a man who has demanded $10,000 from you, that you cannot even name him? All of us who danced parts of the dolls in the Nutcracker supported you despite the fact that you fell out of pirouettes to the last moment, and despite the fact that you could not learn the order of zhigoni for three months! Don’t you remember why they could not place you even in the corps de ballet? Do you really think you do not have problems with remembering the ballet steps? Is it not better to prove by your work in the new theater that to they were unfair to you, and not by such interviews!?”

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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