A Very Bad Month for the Bolshoi Ballet Gets WorseS

Ah, the Bolshoi. Where the applause may be fake, but the drama's always real. And this month it's also been very public.

As the criminal trial of a Bolshoi dancer accused of blinding the ballet company's artistic director in an acid attack continues to make headlines, another Bolshoi dancer — this time an American — is making waves with accusations of bribery and impropriety.

Joy Womack, a Texan ballerina who became the first American woman to join the Bolshoi Ballet last year, quit this week after a Bolshoi official apparently demanded that she pay a $10,000 bribe in exchange for a solo role.

Womack also complained that as an American she was treated unfairly, given short-term contracts instead of the "state" contracts the Russian dancers received. She said she was often not paid, and when she was it was always in cash. As an American, Womack also had to pay $18,000 a year in tuition, a fee not required of Russian students.

At the same time, Womack apparently "would not confirm reports that she was moving to the Kremlin Ballet."

The Bolshoi has already been dominating headlines this month as testimony continues in the trial of former dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, who apparently confessed to blinding Bolshoi artistic director Sergei Filin with acid last January after Filin refused to promote him or his girlfriend, also a dancer with the company.

But not everyone is convinced — Bolshoi sources told David Remnick that they believe Dmitrichenko was tortured and made to confess.

“Why is there no presumption of innocence?” the Bolshoi source continued. “The Russian authorities know how to get what they want. This is common in our legal practice. . . . We all know how this monster machine works. The Prime Minister”—Dmitri Medvedev—“said that the case should be solved in a short time, and so, of course, they found someone.”

Another key witness in the trial also testified this week that he was threatened by police into giving an incriminating statement. Batyr Annadurdiyev, a Bolshoi dancer who was with Dmitrichenko the night of the attack, originally told authorities Dmitrichenko made a phone call before Filin was attacked. He now denies it.

[image via Getty]