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Veronika Part

Principal Dancer, American Ballet Theatre

"Ultimately I choose Gaynor Minden because I like their soft, quiet landings on stage, and how they let me feel my foot working against the floor - even with the hard shank that my flexible feet require. And they are comfortable - even after a long day of rehearsing, my feet feel great."

Veronika Part, Gaynor Minden wearer, Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre, and former star of the Kirov, has been taking audiences as well as critics by storm since her arrival at ABT in 2002.

"If a ballerina must show us something that we've never seen before - and I think she must - then Part is the most important ballerina dancing today."

So writes Laura Jacobs, dance critic for The New Criterion in her feature article on Veronika, "Assoluta." Assoluta is short for Prima Ballerina Assoluta, the honorific, bestowed only two or three times in a century, on the greatest ballerina of the day.

Growing up in St. Petersburg, Russia, Veronika had plenty of exposure to ballet with frequent visits to the Mariinsky Theater. As a small child she trained - and won a prize - in artistic gymnastics, then switched to ballet and enrolled at the legendary Vaganova Academy in 1988 at the age of 10, where she studied with acclaimed Russian dancers Inna Zubkovskaya and Elena Evteyeva. After graduating in 1996, she joined the Mariinsky Ballet (a.k.a. the Kirov Ballet) as a member of the corps de ballet and was promoted to soloist in 1998.

Her roles there included Nikiya in La Bayadere, the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, Myrta, Moyna and Zulma in Giselle, Raymonda in Raymonda, the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. She also danced in George Balanchine's Apollo (Terpsichore), Jewels (Emeralds and Diamonds), Symphony in C (second movement), and Serenade, and in John Neumeier's The Sounds of Empty Pages.

Since joining ABT, Veronika has reprised several of these roles, including Odette/Odile and Raymonda, and added new ones, including Mercedes in Don Quixote, the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Snow Queen in The Nutcracker, and Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. She created a leading role in Within You Without You: A Tribute to George Harrison. The spring of 2007 was especially exciting for her: Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty in ABT's lavish new production, coached by Gelsey Kirkland. She was promoted to Principal Dancer at ABT in 2009.

Jacobs writes, "a complete integration of power and delicacy... Part dances, as she was trained to, with her shoulders, bust, back, head, and hands, as well as legs and feet... those long, sapling feet... Part is bucking every trend in ballet." Of her Odette, critic Don Daniels noted that "New York hadn't seen such a Swan Lake since Makarova's." Of her interpretation of Balanchine's Mozartiana, Mary Cargill of Dance View said, "Part is an extraordinarily beautiful woman, but her face alone did not account for the light that seemed to come from inside her. In the Preghiera, her arms seemed to reach from here to the moon, and her backbend was like a bridge to heaven."

Veronika sampled many different pointe shoes when she first came to America, but ultimately chose Gaynor Minden. She likes their soft, quiet landings onstage, and how they enable her to feel her foot working against the floor - even with the hard shank that her highly arched, flexible feet require. And they are comfortable, even after a long day of rehearsing her feet feel - and look - just fine.

When asked about obstacles she has had to overcome in her dancing, Veronika says "to dance on such famous stages such as the Mariinsky and the Met, and try not to feel the fear and anxiety for the responsibility that the directors have placed on you."

Veronika feels that the differences between Russia and the US are "too many to mention, especially when you have to completely change your surroundings... and live with the absence of people who are really close and your family's support."

"You find yourself alone in an enclosed environment. You don't quite understand your co-workers and how they even relate to each other. Everyday struggles arise with everyday things that were absent in Russia: bills, banks, insurance, etc. Having landed in New York, I could and had to, only rely on myself. But of course all of these difficulties were very useful life experiences that form a stronger individual."

In her personal life, Veronika has an exciting new adventure ahead: she was recently engaged to Alexander Tressor, also an accomplished dancer and teacher in the US. Not only does he empathize with her, but, as she notes, "It is much easier to be living in New York with the person you love and who loves you."

And Veronika's advice to young dancers pursuing their dream? "Ballet is a very difficult and complex profession. To gain even a measure of success is very tough. It is a culmination of many factors: physical abilities, emotional commitment, dancing ability, stubbornness, sheer will, belief in yourself, and the right frame of mind to succeed (even when the world seems to crumble around you).

"One must be willing to work without any breaks, with a limitless pain threshold, and an unwavering love of your chosen art. But the most important factor is to know that you have something to say to your audience and to be able to deliver it to them in such a way that your hard work will then be rewarded."

The dance world has only just begun to acknowledge and delight in what Veronika Part has to offer. When she steps on stage, she is not merely "doing ballet," she is dancing. For dancers and balletomanes alike, we can look forward to what the great Kirov ballerina and current ABT coach Irina Kolesnikova has to say about Veronika Part: "Veronika is never empty. There is always more."

By Eliza Minden and Karen Lacy

Photos by Eduardo Patino, NYC