Russia’s legendary Bolshoi ballet was embroiled in a new scandal Wednesday after an American ballerina accused the theatre of demanding $10,000 to allow her to dance solos.
Texan Joy Womack, 19, a young dancer hired last year after graduating from Bolshoi’s dancing school, said in an interview with the Izvestia daily that she dreamt of solo roles only to be told she would have to pay a bribe in order to perform.
“I found out that I have to pay $10,000 for variations, to perform in one production, to dance a part,” she told the newspaper. “A specific person named me this figure, but I don’t want to say his name.”
A variation is a solo dance performed by a dancer, which offers a precious chance to impress teachers and critics.
She said she had asked artistic director Sergei Filin to review her dancing, but he allegedly refused and told her that he did not need to.
The Bolshoi has been tainted by scandal ever since Filin had acid thrown on his face in January by an attacker that cornered him near his home.
The artistic director lost most of his eyesight while the Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov lost his job, and an ongoing trial of Filin’s attackers has exposed the infighting in the troupe.
In an emotional court testimony last week, Filin said he had been offered bribes by aspiring Bolshoi dancers but refused them.
He also disclosed information about his private life, saying that ballerinas did not “pass through his bed” in exchange for promotions, and that he treated dancers fairly and based on merit.
On trial is a former soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, who is accused of conspiring with an ex-convict to maim Filin.
According to investigators, Dmitrichenko told his accomplice to douse Filin’s face in a toxic substance that contained acid, which resulted in a string of complicated surgery on his skin and eyes.
‘I want to forget this nightmare’
Womack said she danced in the corps-de-ballet despite signing a soloist contract, and could not secure more important roles despite praise from her superiors.
“When Sergei Yuryevich (Filin) came back, he said, no, this girl should stay in the corps-de-ballet,” Womack said.
“People told me that I don’t have a sponsor… someone who can speak on my behalf, since that’s the only way the theatre works now.”
She also complained that the theatre didn’t pay for some of the tours she did in Russia this year.
“I want to forget this nightmare,” she said. Womack said she does not intend to go to court and has already signed a contract with a different Moscow company, the State Kremlin Ballet.
Contacted by AFP, the Bolshoi press service could not offer immediate comment on Womack’s interview, saying only that Filin had left Moscow for more treatment in Germany and the theatre’s spokeswoman is out of the country.
Filin’s lawyer Tatyana Stukalova however told Interfax news agency that the article contains “phrases torn out of context” and was “not true.”
“Such articles justify the crime and take the side of the criminals,” she said, referring to the attack on Filin.
One of the few foreigners among the Bolshoi troupe, Womack partly trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and was hired by the theatre after graduating last year.
She is listed on the Bolshoi ballet’s website as a corps-de-ballet dancer, though her personal webpage says she is a soloist.