|Veronika receiving roses from the girls, photo @ Kent Becker|
|Part in three of her major roles: Mozartiana, Odette and Myrtha|
So why, then, did I go? Actually, for a really unhappy reason: this was the last chance to see Veronika Part dance for ABT. She has been let go after 15 years with the company. When word got out that Part's contract would not be renewed, fans created an online petition that garnered over 500 signatures. Then things got a little crazy. A particularly vehement fan started hatching all sorts of plans which included booing BEFORE Mozartiana, staging a sit-in, throwing a tomato at Ratmansky (whom she compared to a Nazi collaborator), and other hare-brained schemes. In the end none of these plans came to fruition. The company's cold attitude towards Part was evident in this hastily planned "farewell" which was announced a few days ago. Contrast that with Diana Vishneva's lavish farewell in which she got promotional articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker, was surrounded by bouquets and confetti, feted by Kevin McKenzie and the rest of her ABT colleagues.
I wasn't an unconditional Veronika Part fan. She's what I call a specialist -- she was divine in a few roles but not that diverse of a dancer. Despite her 1940's screen-goddess looks, the remote, stoic mask she often wore during performances verged on affectation. She was too mature to fit in Ratmansky's version of The Nutcracker and struggled with the Lilac Fairy variation in Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty. I disliked her Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet -- way too overwrought. She looked like she was going to have an epileptic seizure. But at her best she was spellbinding. I have fond memories of her in Swan Lake, La Bayadere, Myrtha in Giselle, the Fairy Godmother in Ashton's Cinderella, and she was just about the best thing in the otherwise tedious Golden Cockerel. She was also one of the few ABT ballerinas able to handle the controlled adagio of Ashton's Monotones. Her physical beauty always made her stand out onstage, and her powerful, expansive jump, trademarked "Russian" back and languorous way of dancing all cast a spell.
|Part as Nikya, IMO her best role|
But even after the promotion she didn't dance as often as the other ABT principals (Gillian Murphy, Isabella Boyston, Hee Seo, and, in the past few years, Misty Copeland). When she did dance it was often during Wednesday matinees. Who knew why. Company politics? But I still didn't think the company would get rid of a dancer who could get through the full-length classics without much trouble and also had a fairly large fan base amongst ABT followers. But I don't make the decisions so ... The good news is that at least Sarah Lane finally got promoted to principal along with Devon Teuscher and Christine Shevchenko.
|Whiteside and Copeland, photo @ Andrea Mohin|
Ratmansky's Nutcracker pas de deux is one of my least favorite choreographic efforts -- after all these years I still can't stand the sudden crying spurt, the cutesy peeking out from the wings, and most of all, the repetitive lifts that after awhile lost all impact because as soon as Marcelo Gomes had swung Hee Seo in one huge twirling lift there was another one! And another one! The torch lift was awkward -- there was no attempt to jump into it -- Hee Seo stood upstage, Marcelo walked towards her, and hoisted her up by the leg and supported her on the back. Ratmansky's Souvenir d'un lieu cher was slight, but charming. Two couples (Devon Teuscher/David Hallberg, Cassandra Trenary/Tyler Maloney) love, argue, make up, break up, make up again all in about 14 minutes. The Hallberg/Teuscher pairing I guess was supposed to be the mature couple, the Trenary/Tyler pairing the youthful couple. The mature couple's relationship dissolves as the youthful couple become more smitten. Cassandra Trenary continues to be the best interpreter of Ratmansky -- her bubbly style found its perfect vessel in Ratmansky's very often childlike choreography.
|Photo @ Kent G. Becker|
|Hoven in Mozartiana, photo @Rosalie O'Connor|
There was chatter that this wasn't a proper farewell for Veronika, that she deserved better. No arguments from me there. Veronika's dismissal was particularly graceless on the part of ABT. But Mozartiana in a way WAS a wonderful way to see her leave. Mozartiana was Balanchine's tribute not just to the Ballerina Goddess, but to Ballet. And so Veronika exited as a Queen, her head held as high as the heavens in the Preghiera, surrounded a kingdom of by adoring girls (the future), corps dancers (the heart), a jester (the laughter), and a consort (the love).
Here is a video I took of the curtain calls: