Veronika Part’s final performance in Mozartiana Saturday afternoon was beautiful and dignified, unlike the way in which she was unceremoniously dumped by American Ballet Theatre. Veronika “retired” from ABT after her contract was not renewed for next season as reported in The New York Times. After not being cast much this season, and having recently promoted Sarah Lane (finally!), Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher (well deserved) to Principal Dancer, Veronika was expendable.
Veronika left the Kirov Ballet as a Soloist in 2002 to join ABT in a similar title. She was in Soloist/Principal Dancer limbo land for several years before ABT finally promoted her in 2009. She almost left ABT due to lack of support and performing opportunities, according to The New York Times. Despite her promotion, her opportunities to shine were more limited relative to other ABT principals, generally relegated to matinée duty in major roles. This season, she was slated to dance one Myrta in Giselle, two appearances as Medora in Le Corsaire (she withdrew due to injury), one Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and two in Mozartiana
I’m not sure why there was a reluctance at ABT to put Veronika front and center in major casting. She has movie star looks combined with unique expressiveness, a supple back, ample extension with long arms and legs that create a line that goes on forever on her arabesques. Her Aurora in Sleeping Beauty in July 2013 with Marcelo Gomes was memorable. From the moment she appeared on the balcony and descended the stairs to join her 16th birthday party, Veronika took command of the stage with energy, confidence, and style with precise technique and grace, taking full advantage of her long, pure, elegant line and extension. Her Rose Adagio was nicely done with great control and confidence. Her Myrta in Giselle was filled with ice-cold nastiness as she sentenced Albrecht to die. Her Odette/Odile was her strong suit, as she showed off her Russian Vaganova training with beautiful arabesques and airy, flowing arms. Her Siren in Prodigal Son was imposing as she overpowered the spoiled brat boy with such ease (see my photography website notmydayjobphotography for photos of Veronika over the years). Although not cast much, at age 39 she can still deliver at a higher level than some ABT Principal Dancers.
Balanchine’s 1933 Mozartiana was a perfect vehicle for Veronika’s talents in her final ABT performance Saturday afternoon. The opening segment, Preghiera (Prayer), started with Veronika onstage with four young dancers and was performed with much feeling and grace. Her extensions, flowing arms, and lush arabesques were beautifully timed with the soothing score, Tchaikovsky’s Suite No. 4 Op. 61. Blaine Hoven provided solid and unwavering support. They danced with such ease and great timing; it seemed as if they have been dancing together for years. Blaine’s solo work was done at a high level, with nice beats and turns throughout, with effective triple and quad pirouettes and a double pirouette to arabesque sequence on a diagonal. Blaine excels in classical roles and is ready for full-length lead roles such as Swan Lake and Giselle. A wonderful performance filled with great technique and musicality.
Veronika’s final curtain calls were brief and less elaborate than Diana Vishneva’s earlier in the Met season (see my article on Diana’s final performance). Veronika was greeted with flowers by Alexi Ratmansky, Marcelo Gomes, Blaine, Irina Kolpakova, and Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie followed by curtain calls in front of the curtain. Veronika was understated at times, needing prodding from Marcelo to continue her bows to her adoring, vocal fans in the jammed packed Met Opera House. She handled the festivities with class.
I’m not sure why ABT can’t treat long-standing dancers with more respect as they are on the way out. Xiomara Reyes received the same treatment in 2015 after 14 years with the company. I’ve never heard of dancers at other companies getting publicly dumped. There is likely always a tension between established dancers and management on the appropriate time for a dancer to exit the stage and make way for younger talent. Nonetheless, Veronika deserved better treatment given her contributions to the company over the years and current high level of dancing.