Spotlight: The Biggest Misconception About Dancers, According to Joy Womack
American ballet dancer Joy Womack made major news in 2012 when she joined the Bolshoi Ballet at the age of 18. And she did it again a few years later when she quit, claiming the company's corruption had driven her away.
But today, you wouldn't guess that Womack's early career was so tumultuous. A principal at Moscow's Kremlin Ballet, she's an avid vlogger, a regular on the international circuit and an entrepreneur. We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
Name: Joy Annabelle Womack
Company: Kremlin Ballet
Hometown: Santa Monica, California
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
That we are uneducated and unintelligent. I am impressed by my colleagues who have multiple degrees, manage side businesses, speak multiple languages and manage their own careers!
What other career would you like to try?
International relations, immigration law, diving instructor, photojournalist.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
Akane Takada and Benjamin Ella made me weep while I was backstage in the Australian Ballet Conservatoire Gala. Artists who love each other and live their passion!
What's the most-played song on your phone?
"Vivaldi Recomposed," "Fingertips" by One Republic, "Arco II," "Romantic" by Sataj and of course whatever I'm currently rehearsing. Music is my drug of choice. It's my secret weapon and my horse blinders.
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
A nap, music, meditation, a solid class and a leisurely yet thorough warm up. Also, SECOND SKIN.
What's your favorite book?
So many books. Daniel Silva, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol, Alexander Pushkin and Philippa Gregory to name a few. Historical fiction is my genre of choice. We need books to train our imagination. If we can't create that make-believe place in our minds, how can we convince an audience to go there with us?
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
Walking home carrying too many bags, or on a call to my family to thank them for praying, or still removing the 300 pins holding my too-long hair in place.
Where did you last vacation?
All my life I've dreamed of going off the grid on a island in Thailand. I found this great diving school where you can get certified as an advanced open water deep diver on Koh Tao. Needless to say, two weeks without running water, learning Thai classical dance and doing barre in a hostel was the highlight of my summer! Diving is my favorite form of cross-training, hands down!
What app do you spend the most time on?
Canon or Sony Camera Connect for importing footage for my YouTube and social media pages, and Facebook Messenger is my preferred way of keeping in touch with family and friends. And the clock app...too many time zones to keep track of!
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
Xander Parish. His story, faith and perseverance inspires me!
What's the first item on your bucket list?
Perform at Lincoln Center.
What's your go-to cross-training routine?
Diving when I can. Elliptical. Pilates. NeuFit electrical muscle stimulator enhanced balance training.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
That the best thing an artist can be is a blank canvas.
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
I recently got to dance again at the Bolshoi. It's my favorite stage. That being said, dancing with my amazing students at Asian Grand Prix was so meaningful! Getting to see their progress gives me courage and reminds me why I love this art with every fiber of my being. The next generation has got this in the bag!
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
It's Nutcracker time again: the season of sweet delights and a sparkling good time—if we're able to ignore the sour taste left behind by the outdated racial stereotypes so often portrayed in the second act.
In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
An audience member once emailed Dallas choreographer Joshua L. Peugh, claiming his work was vulgar. It complained that he shouldn't be pushing his agenda. As the artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Peugh's recent choreography largely deals with LGBTQ issues.
"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
With the current political climate as polarized as it is, many artists today feel compelled to use their work to speak out on issues they care deeply about. But touring with a message is not for the faint of heart. From considerations about how to market the work to concerns about safety, touring to cities where, in general, that message may not be so welcome, requires companies to figure out how they'll respond to opposition.