Bolshoi Ballet Academy to see first U.S. graduate

Tue Jan 31, 2012 10:22am EST
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By Jennifer Rankin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian ballet stars once defected to the West in search of artistic freedom. These days, western dancers are lured east by the iron discipline of a Russian ballet education.

Around 100 foreigners from all over the world are enrolled at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, formally known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. Founded by Empress Catherine the Great, the school produced Soviet legends Olga Lepeshinskaya and Maya Plisetskaya as well as contemporary stars such as Natalia Osipova and Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

Here's a name to add to the list: Joy Womack, a 17-year-old dancer who is to become the first American to graduate from the academy's Russian course this spring.

"The technique and the artistry and the passion is something that is worth moving thousands of miles away," said Womack, who grew up in California and Texas.

"It is the oldest and most famous school for ballet and the traditions are kept so well here."

At age 15, the dancer came to Moscow for a routine of 12- to 14-hour days of dance practice, acting classes and rehearsals - all in Russian, a language she barely knew when she arrived.

"The teaching style here at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy is very different from the United States. Here what is very special is that each teacher has their own style, their own way of teaching and getting results out of the students," she said, clad in black leotard and tights after practice.

"Sometimes, it can be painful, sometimes it can be very emotional, but I think that it brings the best results, especially because their attention to detail is so precise."   Continued...

<p>Mario Labrador (R) from California takes part in a lesson at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow January 30, 2012. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>