Joy Womack: The White Swan

From 101 Films, this Covid delayed film is one of two films coming out this year about Joy Womack. This first one comes out July 19, 2021, almost a year and a half after the original premiere, and is a documentary that follows Joy Womack through her time at the Kremlin Ballet. Filmed over a long time span, this documentary follows Joy’s journey from joining the Kremlin Ballet to her rise to principal dancer between 2014-2017, before she leaves for Universal Ballet in Korea.

We were lucky enough to be able to screen the film prior to the release date.

This documentary is definitely about Joy Womack, and her experiences, her personal struggles and her perceptions of ballet. I think you need to make that VERY clear before you go and let all of your students watch this documentary. There is a lot of very unhealthy information that is presented in this documentary, and while it might be that way in Russia and her experiences inside of the Bolshoi School, here in America, it is not that way, and while she does say that in the documentary it definitely paints a picture that in order to be successful in ballet you have do some crazy things.

This documentary talks about how she danced on stress fractures and broken bones multiple times, how you have be devoted to ballet religiously like showing up 1 hour and 45 minutes early to ballet class, how you need to wake up at 6 am every morning to stretch and give yourself barre at home, and how she married for a Russian Residency card. This documentary also has a very dated Soviet video that talks about proportions, the shape and legs of the body and what is or was ideal for ballet. It’s a bit too hardcore if you ask me. And this is all in the first 20 minutes of the film. 

The entire film is centered around her dream of dancing Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and what it took to get there as it flashes between the day of performance and back to when she was fifteen at the Bolshoi School. The back and forth of it all might be hard to follow if you aren’t familiar with her career, or her YouTube.

This beautifully cinematic documentary definitely focuses around Joy, and the drama that she either brings on herself, or she puts herself in, and she own up to that. It even touches on her accusations that the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre encouraged her to buy a soloist role at the age of 19 for $10,000. This even was widely covered by the news. It was covered by The New York Times, Pointe Magazine, The Moscow Times, and numerous others. This was just the first of many scandals the Bolshoi went through between 2013-2016.

Joy Womack first rose to fame when she released her story on YouTube back in the day. At the age of 15, she was the third American to enroll and graduate from Bolshoi Ballet Academy (really known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography). This was when YouTube first really started, and she was one of the first ballet YouTubers. She was given a contract to the Bolshoi and tried to push for soloist roles her first year. Because of the press surrounding her accusation, she then leaves for Kremlin. After three years there, she joined the Universal Ballet of Korea and was promoted to Principal in 2018. She then joined Boston Ballet as corps member in 2019. In 2020 she joined Astrakhan Opera Ballet and Theatre as a Principal. Womack is also a Grand Prix semifinalist winner at the Youth America Grand Prix, awarded the Asian Grand Prix Award, and the sliver medal in 2016 at Varna. Fun fact: she is the niece of country star Lee Ann Womack.

Follow her instagram.