Light As A Feather

Joy Womack: The White Swan
Stars: Joy Annabelle Womack, Nikita Ivanov-Goncharov, Elizabeth Shuedenko, Natalia Goncharova and Titiana Kuznetsova
Directors: Dina Burlis, Sergay Gaurilov and Danila Kuznetsov
Scriptwriters: Dina Burlis and Dana Kiseleva
Composer: Christopher Barnett
Cinematography: Sergey Gavrilov
Joy Film/Film Movement
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 95 Minutes 

The word “determination” is given new meaning in this documentary about what it takes to become a top-ranking ballerina. Not only in your own country, which happens to be the USA, but in Russia, at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet, also known as the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. Joy Womack is originally from Texas and knew as a child that she wanted to dance. Her father encouraged her and at age fifteen, she was on her way to Russia to begin at the dance academy Normally, for Russians, only, Joy’s appearance was a surprise.  She was the first American. This was the place to learn classical ballet---the proper way, oh, and learn the Russian language, too. 

Joy’s story tells of the hardships a dancer endures. She once danced a performance with a broken bone in her foot and the foot was “frozen” beforehand, so she could dance. Taping feet and the care of feet and toes is primary to a ballerina. Also, shape and body formation are essential. There is one scene, where young dancers, barely clothed, are in front of a panel of judges while a dance instructor goes over their body showing the good parts and the bad parts. Like looking at packaged food in a grocery store. Joy knew if she ever gave up, someone else would take her place, so she keeps on even when her Visa is about to expire and she marries a Russian dancer. It is a marriage of distance when he is on tour and she at the Academy. There is a section where the audience can see what male dancers have to do, and that includes lifting ballerinas in the air many times during a dance routine.  When dancers are ready to achieve success, they are told they may have to pay up to $10,000 for a top role in a ballet, such as “Swan Lake.” 

Photography and accompanying music are finely done. There are close-ups of the dancers and the feet---which is actually where their career is.  Feet, plus, a thin silhouette like a feather, as they go across the stage on toes only. Hands are expressive, too. One ounce of weight here or there could mean another costume fitting or more work for the male dancer. Joy tells of her episodes with eating problems and other injuries. Ballerina’s become experts with bandage tape. 

Follow your dream---even though it means on the other side of the world.  This is an admirable film of endurance and hard work so far from home. Not unlike a sports figure who leaves home to enter the college of his/her dreams and follow their dream of being the quarterback, head volleyball person, soccer star, tennis star, and so on. Dancing is musical, but the work that goes into it is sports-like in regime. Needless to say, “Swan Lake” never looked better. 

Copyright 2021 Marie Asner