18 May 2024

Joy Womack: the American ballerina who danced for Russia

From Saturday Morning, 10:05 am on 18 May 2024
American ballet dancer Joy Womack

American ballet dancer Joy Womack. Photo: Robert Paka

At just fifteen years old Joy Womack left her family home in Texas and travelled to Moscow to follow her dream of becoming a Prima Ballerina at the world-renowned Bolshoi Ballet Company. 

In the face of incredible challenges, she became the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy's punishing training program with a red diploma, and the second American woman to sign a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet. 

Womack's captivating story has been made into a movie by the New Zealand filmmaking team of James Napier Robertson and Tom Hern. The biopic Joika, which is currently screening in NZ cinemas, stars actress and classically trained dancer Talia Ryder, and the real Womack served as choreographer and consultant.