L.A. dancer Joy Womack quits Bolshoi, says she refused to pay bribe

Joy Womack, who hails from Los Angeles, is quitting the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, claiming corruption in the company.
(Elizabeth Shockman / Festival Ballet Theatre)

An American dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow has quit the renowned institution, claiming that she would have had to pay a bribe in order to secure a solo role. Joy Womack, who hails from Los Angeles and who studied at the Westside School of Ballet in Santa Monica, is the first American woman to be hired as a soloist at the Moscow company.

Womack said this week that she resigned her position at the Bolshoi because company leaders were demanding $10,000 from her for a solo role, according to initial reports from the Russian news organization Izvestia. She is reportedly joining the Kremlyovsky Ballet Company in Moscow.

On her Twitter account on Thursday, Womack wrote “No comment.” Her claims of extortion have been met with skepticism by some inside the Bolshoi, according to reports.

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The new allegations come at a crucial time for the Bolshoi, which is still reeling from an acid attack on its artistic director, Sergei Filin, in January. Pavel Dmitrichenko, who was a soloist with the company and accused of masterminding the January attack, is standing trial in Moscow.

The lurid case has seriously damaged the Bolshoi’s international reputation, with allegations of widespread internal corruption and favoritism in the centuries-old institution.

Womack studied at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and became a soloist with the company in 2012, according to her official website. She began her ballet training at age 3 in L.A. and studied at different studios in Southern California, including the Westside School of Ballet under the tutelage of the late Yvonne Mounsey.

Her family moved to Texas in 2006. Three years later, Womack began her studies at the Bolshoi.

In 2012, Womack performed the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Westside’s annual production of “The Nutcracker” as an homage to Mounsey, who had died earlier that year.

Womack wasn’t the only American dancer at the Bolshoi. David Hallberg, the renowned American Ballet Theatre dancer, joined the company in 2011 as a premier, the Russian company’s equivalent of a principal.


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