Joy Womack performing Leonid Lavrosky's "Classical Symphony" for the Protégés III showcase at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Photo by Vihao Pham.
Spirited. Vivacious. Exciting. Joy Womack naturally has the trademark Bolshoi Ballet energy. But when she arrived at the company’s academy in Moscow in 2009, her teachers went straight to work reining it in. “They considered me a Kitri type of dancer,” Joy says. “As they put it, I needed to learn to ‘dance like a ballerina instead of a soloist.’ ” Two years later, her focus and intense seven-day-a-week schedule has paid off. Joy now balances fiery attack with delicate articulation and expressive épaulement.
Joy, 17, began her pre-professional studies at the Balanchine-based Westside School of Dance in Santa Monica, CA. She switched to Vaganova style at 12, when her family moved to Texas and couldn’t find a strong Balanchine studio in the area. Just three years later, her technique was so promising that when Joy auditioned for the Russian American Foundation’s Bolshoi Ballet summer program in NYC, one of the teachers invited her to train year-round in Moscow. While international students are usually placed in the school’s separate foreigners’ program, at her teacher’s request Joy became the first American offered a spot in the school’s elite three-year course meant for Russian dancers only. (At the time, Joy knew very little of the Russian language. Now she’s almost fluent!)
As one of only 10 girls in her level, Joy has found the competition intense. Like most of her classmates, she wakes up at 6 am to work out, which includes giving herself her own class so that she’s on top of her game when school begins. But the opportunities she’s been given make the effort worth it. Last winter, Joy went on tour for a month with her class to Italy and Greece, and she was chosen to perform the lead in Leonid Lavrovsky’s Classical Symphony at The Kennedy Center last March. At the academy’s winter performance in November, she will command the Bolshoi stage as Lise in Yuri Grigorovich’s full-length La Fille Mal Gardée.
Although she’d love to join the Bolshoi after graduating next year, Russian law currently prohibits the company from hiring foreigners. Her other dream? Becoming a principal at a top company. “I’d love to perform Jiří Kylián, Kenneth MacMillan and all the classics,” she says. “I just want to dance everything!”
Dance idol: Natalia Osipova. “I’m still starstruck every time I bump into her. She’s not afraid to let all her emotions out onstage.”
Most played on her iPod: “This song that a guy in Austin wrote for me called ‘You’re a Joy.’ ”
Favorite food: Alpen Gold Dva Shokolada, a Russian candy bar.
Her perfect day off: A picnic on the beach in Santa Monica with her friends and family.
Secret talent: “I do great impersonations, especially of Russian ballet teachers.”
Did You Know? Joy’s aunt is Grammy Award-winning country singer Lee Ann Womack, famous for singing “I Hope You Dance.”
Jennifer Stahl is a senior editor at Pointe magazine.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
When a choreographer finds a composer whose music truly inspires her, it can feel like a match made in dance heaven. Some choreographers work with the same composers so frequently that they become known for their partnerships. New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck, for example, has tapped composer Sufjan Stevens numerous times (last spring, the two premiered The Decalogue at NYCB, to rave reviews); L.A. Dance Project's Benjamin Millepied's working relationship with composer Nico Muhly has spanned a decade and two continents; and when tap dancer Michelle Dorrance premiered the first-ever Works & Process Rotunda Project, a site-specific work for New York City's Guggenheim Museum, last year, percussionist Nicholas Van Young was by her side as an equal partner. Successful collaborations require compatibility between artists, direct and honest communication, and flexible, open minds. But when the stars align, working with a composer can be extremely rewarding.
For ballerinas, it's the dream role to end all dream roles: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, the type of part dancers spend years preparing for and whole careers perfecting. And it's a role that New York City Ballet principal Tiler Peck never thought she'd dance. Though Peck is one of the world's preeminent ballerinas, her short stature made Odette/Odile, typically performed by longer, leggier dancers, seem (almost literally) out of reach.
Then—surprise!—her name popped up on the cast list for NYCB's fall season run of Swan Lake.
Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet's BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th-anniversary season—and read on for The Dirt!
Week five of "Dancing with the Stars" proved to be one of the best weeks of the season so far. (And we're not just saying that because Mickey made a cameo debut on the piano during one of the routines—although that certainly didn't hurt!) Everyone brought their A-game, and with such a fun theme the contestants were able to really let their guards down. There was true sincerity in their dancing that we hadn't seen before. But not all Disney stories end with a "happily ever after," and one couple still had to hang up their dancing shoes.
If there's one week you should watch all the routines of it's undoubtedly this one... But, ICYMI, scroll below for our highlights of the night.