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.
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
We also want you to
get social! We'll be factoring social media likes and shares into our final tallies. Be sure to show your favorite finalist some love on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, sharing their profile pages and using the hashtag #DanceSpiritCMS.
Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?