Russia's legendary Bolshoi ballet was rocked by a new scandal Wednesday after an American ballerina accused the theatre of warning her she could only dance solos on stage in exchange for a $10,000 payment.
Texan Joy Womack, 19, a young dancer who was hired last year after graduating from Bolshoi's dancing school, said in an interview with Izvestia daily that she dreamt of solo roles in productions only to be told how much that would cost.
"I found out that I have to pay $10,000 for variations, to perform in one production, to dance a part," she told the newspaper. "A specific person named me this figure, but I don't want to say his name."
A variation is a solo dance performed by a dancer, which gives a precious chance to impress teachers and critics.
She said she had asked artistic director Sergei Filin to review her dancing, but he allegedly refused and told her that he did not need to.
The Bolshoi has been tainted by scandal ever since Filin had acid thrown on his face in January by an attacker that cornered him near his home.
The artistic director lost most of his eyesight while the Bolshoi director Anatoly Iksanov lost his job, and an ongoing trial of Filin's attackers has exposed the infighting in the troupe.
Womack said she danced in the corps-de-ballet despite signing a soloist contract, and could not secure more important roles despite praise from her superiors.
"When Sergei Yuryevich (Filin) came back, he said, no, this girl should stay in the corps-de-ballet," Womack said. "People told me that I don't have a sponsor... someone who can speak on my behalf, since that's the only way the theatre works now."
She also complained that the theatre didn't pay for some of the tours she did in Russia this year.
"I want to forget this nightmare," she said. Womack said she does not intend to go to court and already signed a contract with a different Moscow company, the State Kremlin Ballet.
Contacted by AFP, the Bolshoi press service could not offer immediate comment on Womack's interview, saying only that Sergei Filin has left Moscow for more treatment in Germany and the theatre's spokeswoman is out of the country.
One of the few foreigners among the Bolshoi troupe, Womack partly trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, and was hired by the theatre after graduating last year.
She is listed on the Bolhoi ballet's website as a corps-de-ballet dancer, though her personal webpage says she is a soloist.