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Young American ballet dancer accuses Bolshoi of extortion – report

by RAPSIThe Moscow News at 13/11/2013 12:17

American ballet dancer Joy Womack claimed during an interview with Russian daily Izvestia that employees of the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet attempted to extort $10,000 from her for a chance to perform on stage.

Joy Womack, 18, is the first American dancer to have been offered a spot with the Bolshoi Theater Ballet Academy.  After graduating in 2012, she was hired by the Bolshoi's company corps de ballet. 

The dancer told Izvestia that after having been hired by the company, she has not been assigned any parts since September 2013, despite repeated accolades from the theater's heads.  Womack said that a “respected” member of the company, whose name she declined to disclose, told her that a payment of $10,000 would help her secure a leading part.

The offer was reportedly made after Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi's artistic director, returned to the theater after undergoing treatment in Germany. Filin suffered third-degree burns to his face and eyes when unknown assailants attacked him on January 17 with what is believed to have been concentrated acid. Shortly after the attack, a Bolshoi Theater spokesperson confirmed that Filin had received various threats.

Pavel Dmitrichenko, Bolshoi's former leading soloist, is now on trial for masterminding the attack. During the trial, Dmitrichenko accused Filin of personal bias when giving out parts to the dancers, and hinted at corrupt practices.

Womack told Izvestia that Filin's aide Dilyara Timergazina performed “strange manipulations” with her payment plan. “I was given a contract for the September-March period, with a 198,000 ruble salary ($6,000), before a 33% tax deduction. After that I found out that I wasn't given a VAT identification number, despite the fact that my salary was taxed,” the dancer explained.

Womack added that she was not paid or compensated for a number of performances at all, while told that it will improve her reputation as a dancer. Womack said that Filin's former deputy Ruslan Pronin was aware of the situation.

All those mentioned by Womack in the Izvestia interview, including Sergei Filin and his representatives, declined to comment on the allegations.

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