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Veronika Part: divided opinions?


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#1 bart

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:15 AM

Buddy recently posted a review that included a Link to James Wolcott's article in praise of Veronkia Part. I have not seen Part dance, but I've noticed that she is a dancer who seems to divide the experienced posters on Ballet Talk. Some seek out the performances in which she dances; others review performances in which she has appeared almost without mentioning her.

This divergence of opinion has puzzled me.

I was completely captivated by Wolcott's characterization of her as someone who "reminds us of the dangerous beauty of ballet when it tests and surprasses its own formal limits." I thought: whoa !!, this is someone I have to see!

Then I thought: This matter of testing/surprassing formal limits can mean many things. For Wolcott, Part obviously weaves magic. But I can also see how other viewers might be distressed or interpret thing differently.

I was wondering what others think of Part's dancing at ABT. What do you like? What not?

Then Veronika Part arrived on the nova express to remind us of the dangerous beauty of ballet when it tests and surpasses its own formal limits. [ ... ] Part snapped the eyes to attention the moment she appeared. She so refreshed and revitalized "Emeralds" that had I been Peter Martins I would have thrown myself into the Lincoln Center fountains from shame or, better yet, offered to trade three corps dancers and a pitcher to be named later to the Kirov to get her under contract.

NYCB's loss was American Ballet Theatre's gain as Part joined the company as a soloist in 2002. On July 4th, after a miserable long weekend that need not be recounted, I went to see her at the Met as Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, and felt resurrected. I haven't been this knocked sideways at the ballet since Baryshnikov exploded from the cannon. Not that Part indulged in pyrotechnics. She isn't Sylvie Guillem showing off her leggy Rockettes kicks. It's that she has the super-alive sharp focus of an artist incapable of betraying her artistry with false moves and conditioned responses. She savors every moment on stage as if it were newly minted. She's shaved off a few pounds since I last saw her while managing to lose none of her plushness, perhaps because the loss of weight has added more regal confidence. No dancer alive uses her wrists and hands with more calligraphy than Part, their elegant air-tracings suddenly whipped into force when she swoops her arm away from a suitor in a tai chi semicircle--yin instantly tranformed into yang. In act two in an allegro passage, her swan arms beat as her toeshoes stabbed the floor with diagonal slashes. In act three as Odile, she was an imperial presence, her eyes in supreme command, and the fact that I even noticed her eyes was an astonishment--you almost never notice dancers' eyes, they're so doll-like and disciplined.


Here's the link to the complete article: http://jameswolcott....lly_a_reaso.php

#2 atm711

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 03:12 PM

I am one who seeks out Veronika Part. Woolcott had a hard time trying to describe her artistry and I don't think I will do any better. Perhaps, it's her presence, her demeanor. For me, I prefer dancers who don't make me think of technique---it's comfortably there, but not uppermost. Part does this for me; Farrell had the same quality.

#3 aurora

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 03:25 PM

I think she's fantastic and wish they used her more.

I saw her for the first time last year in Swan Lake--

I don't think I've ever been moved to tears in the first white swan PdD before, but she was just incredible.

There was less flash in her black swan than in Annaniashvili (who has been my favorite Odette/Odile for many years now), but she was just magnificent.

I also saw the Vishneva Giselle which was categorized as one of those performances that blow you away.
I have to say, it didn't for me, but Part's Swan Lake really did.

She's doing one Swan Lake again, a matinee on weds. I'd recommend going and seeing for yourself :)

#4 Buddy

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 06:06 PM

I am one who seeks out Veronika Part. Woolcott had a hard time trying to describe her artistry and I don't think I will do any better. Perhaps, it's her presence, her demeanor. For me, I prefer dancers who don't make me think of technique---it's comfortably there, but not uppermost. Part does this for me; Farrell had the same quality.





As Myrtha it definitely was her stage presence (for me). Her jumps were excellent.

#5 Leigh Witchel

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 07:02 PM

I have enjoyed Part every time I've seen her, but she would be better off if she were stronger. When I've seen her she's had the wobbles in promenades and her feet are prone to collapse off of pointe. She's unquestionably an artist, but still.

#6 cadancelover

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 08:19 PM

I'm sorry but I saw Part in a small roll in ABT's Silvia in Orange County. I had never seen her before and was quite surprised that she is quite big for a soloist and found myself distracted by that while watching her dance.

#7 aurora

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:18 PM

I'm sorry but I saw Part in a small roll in ABT's Silvia in Orange County. I had never seen her before and was quite surprised that she is quite big for a soloist and found myself distracted by that while watching her dance.


Do you mean she's fat by dancer standards?
I hardly think so. I would say she's probably smaller that Gillian Murphy, but if not she's not considerably larger.

She is tall and she moves large--when I saw her as Myrtha it was noticable the way she devoured the stage with her leaps.

If this:
http://www.abt.org/i...s/slpart1ro.jpg
or
http://www.for-balle...m/Afb/Part4.jpg
or
http://www.ballet.co...ronika_part.jpg

Is your idea of too large, then clearly you value different things in your dancers than I do.

Now if you said you were distracted by her 40s movie star beauty, well then you might have a point! ;)

#8 Helene

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 10:33 PM

I clicked on the links, and I'm in love, and I haven't even seen her dance. But Part is my kind of dancer, with wide shoulders and long, muscular legs, what I'd call "juicy."; there aren't that many very thin dancers that I've liked, although there have been exceptions.

The topic is "divided opinions," and in a number of discussions of Part on this board, physique is one of the things on which opinions on Part are divided.

#9 aurora

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 11:15 PM

I clicked on the links, and I'm in love, and I haven't even seen her dance. But Part is my kind of dancer, with wide shoulders and long, muscular legs, what I'd call "juicy."; there aren't that many very thin dancers that I've liked, although there have been exceptions.

The topic is "divided opinions," and in a number of discussions of Part on this board, physique is one of the things on which opinions on Part are divided.


It was her artistry in SL, more than her physique (though on the whole, I'd probably agree with you), that I found so compelling about her.

My feeling about body type is that, within reason, it's besides the point.
I've loved dancers of many different body types--and I still remember uncomfortably the criticism Tina LeBlanc (of Joffrey in the 90s) got for having *gasp* breasts.

Totally Off topic--but I see you are from Seattle--do you happen to know a tiny company based out of edmonds? Olympic Ballet Theater?

#10 kfw

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 05:24 AM

The title of the Wolcott piece always cracks me up. I've seen Part as Terpsichore, Odette/Odile, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Zulma, Lady Capulet, and as the lead in Ballet Imperial, where she fought with her technique and the ballet and the audience won. She must be glorious in Emeralds. She's regal and womanly rather than girlish. She's altogether lovely, a dancer I'd go to see in a ballet I don't really care for. atm711, I hope you'll post after her upcoming Swan Lake!

#11 bart

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 06:30 AM

I'm sorry but I saw Part in a small roll in ABT's Silvia in Orange County. I had never seen her before and was quite surprised that she is quite big for a soloist and found myself distracted by that while watching her dance.

Clearly, size matters. However, I suspect that dancers of this body type may not do well in small parts which require the ability to fade away as soon as the solo turn is over. Maybe bigger dancers benefit from bigger parts.

The specific technical points described by Leigh raise another issue. So, I have a question for the dancers and/or teachers here: how possible is it, once problems like this have been identified, for the dancer to train them away?

I've never known whether those dancers who have technical blips over their entire careers continue to have them because (a) they don't know it, (b) they don't care much, © they've tried to remedy them but have been unable to do so.

When you have so much artistry, and are so close to a kind of perfection, it seems a shame not to go all the way.

#12 nysusan

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 06:58 AM

I am a huge fan of Veronika Part and I try to go see all of her performances but it is obvious that despite her greatness, she is working against certain handicaps. Her size is definitely an issue. A couple of years ago she had put on some weight, and if you saw her then you might have been taken aback by it. She has lost all the excess weight and is now quite svelte, but she’s still very tall and I can see how that can be a problem for some people in terms of their perception of a role ( for instance, some people could never accept Cynthia Gregory as Giselle – and I’m not sure I’d want to see Part as Giselle, either!).

For me, her height is only problematic in terms of partnering. It’s tough to find a partner for her, and even with her best partner (Gomes) the partnering can be kind of rough sometimes.

In terms of her dancing, much of Part’s brilliance is in her upper body – it’s so flexible and expressive. Yet so are her developees and arabesques – her line is awesome. Her technique is more than adequate but she does struggle sometimes with the most demanding footwork (she is not particularly an allegro dancer) and sometimes stamina has been a problem. One of the most impressive things about Part is how hard she works to remedy her technical shortcomings. She struggled some with Ballet Imperial and Mozartianna a couple of seasons ago, but as kfw said - she won and the audience was the better for it - she gave absolutely beautiful, magical performances

But, Part’s most impressive characteristics are the intangibles – I’m paraphrasing here - she has that ability to “draw you into a universe created out of her own imagination, a universe of which she is the center”.

If you love allegro dancers Part will not impress you. If you love adagio dancers she is a dream come true. If your preference in ballerinas tends to the delicate and small then Part is not your girl. She is a big, lush, beautiful woman.

#13 FauxPas

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 07:25 AM

I've seen Part in many of the roles described above but also Raymonda with ABT and Maria in "The Fountain at Bakchisirai", "Emeralds", "Symphony in C" and the Lilac Fairy in "Sleeping Beauty" with the Kirov.

She is an old school dancer of a highly individualistic type that is out of sync with todays streamlined, fast and virtuosic ideal. Her upper body and arms weave spells. In "Raymonda" she seemed to be summoning Glazunov's gorgeous melodies out of the orchestra with her epaulement and port de bras. However, she also tipped off balance in multiple pirouettes and had trouble holding position when being lifted by Marcelo Gomes. It was not Gomes' fault. Quick changes in direction and allegro work can faze her and glitches will happen. I sometimes have suspected some weakness in the ankles. However, she also has very strong legs and is a good jumper. As the Queen of the Dryads in "Don Quixote" she had excellent Italian fouettes, strong developees and a huge leap.

She is a dancer who thrives on adagio and likes to stretch out the steps and elongate the line. She also slows down tempos. People think that this always makes things easier but it also requires strength to sustain the physical movements. She does sustain them and almost always seamlessly. As a dancer she is always interesting even when or especially when she is miscast. In "Ballet Imperial" her lush sad Russian presence turned a glittery showpiece into a tragic romance - Anna Karenina's last dance in the Imperial ballroom. Maybe she didn't do a few steps quick enough, blurred some transitions and slowed down the tempo but you never saw the ballet look like that before and it was gorgeous.

I don't know anything first hand or in print about her relationship with the ABT staff and coaches but her casting suggests that there may be areas where support is lacking. Kolpakova as a coach brings a Kirov sensibility to ABT and might have taken Veronika under her wing (she is a taskmaster) as she did with Susan Jaffe, who had weaknesses in her early ABT career and emerged stronger. That may not have happened between them. Part had a weight gain when she joined ABT but she is in fighting shape now. However she spent almost all of her first two years slinging herself around in blue jeans in the "Harrison Tribute" because someone didn't want to put her in tights and toe shoes. The Balanchine people seem to have a lot of faith in her because she is always used in Balanchine (Mozartiana, Apollo, Ballet Imperial) revivals at ABT even though she is not an obvious Balanchine dancer. Peter Quanz used her in "Kaleidoscope" which wasn't a big success but was a high profile premiere.

What is distressing is that she made big strides in the Spring and Fall 2005 seasons at ABT in casting. Nina Ananiashvili's absence opened up opportunities for her (Ballet Imperial, Raymonda) that she took on with striking results. The Fall season at City Center saw her used in premieres (Kaleidoscope) and important revivals (Apollo, Les Sylphides). However, after those advances she is now stuck with two Terpsichores, two Myrthas, one Wednesday matinee Odette/Odile and parts like Twig in "Cinderella"and the 3rd Odalisque in "Le Corsaire". There was talk that she would be Lescaut's mistress in "Manon" but that didn't happen.

She is 28 and should be working into her greatest period. ABT has to decide whether they are going to mold her into a star or let her go and become one elsewhere. But they have to have faith in her. I don't think she has let them down despite her flaws. I remember vividly Susan Jaffe stepping off pointe as a young ballerina and Julie Kent stumbling in turns as well. They were gorgeous dancers and the company gave them roles to grow on. Part deserves the same.

#14 vrsfanatic

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 12:30 PM

The specific technical points described by Leigh raise another issue. So, I have a question for the dancers and/or teachers here: how possible is it, once problems like this have been identified, for the dancer to train them away?


bart, having watched V. Part as a student in St. Petersburg (final two years of school), a performer in St. Petersburg and in ABT, my opinion is that the "flaws" (the word of FauxPas, not mine) have been ever present, might be fixable with the right coach/teacher and the dedicated, believing mind of the dancer who wants to make the changes. Who knows what might have happened had she stayed in Russia? :tiphat:

#15 Alexandra

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 01:18 PM

She is an old school dancer of a highly individualistic type that is out of sync with todays streamlined, fast and virtuosic ideal. Her upper body and arms weave spells. .....

She is a dancer who thrives on adagio and likes to stretch out the steps and elongate the line. She also slows down tempos. People think that this always makes things easier but it also requires strength to sustain the physical movements. She does sustain them and almost always seamlessly.


I agree completely. She's a very rate type -- a danseuse noble -- which is why she was so wonderful as Lilac in the Kirov's old/new "Beauty" and why she's so gorgeous in adagio. She's not built to do quick turns!


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