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VERONIKA PART, ABT’S UNSUNG RUSSIAN STAR; `EMBRACE’: N.Y. DANCE

This article originally appeared in the Culture section of Bloomberg News on October 23, 2006.

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) — George Balanchine’s “Symphonie Concertante” features a pair of leading women, but when American Ballet Theatre’s Veronika Part dances one of the roles, she’s the only one you see.

She’ll appear in the ballet on Oct. 25, midway through the company’s fall season at the City Center. On Oct. 28, she can be seen in the soulful adagio duet from Act II of “Swan Lake,” another assignment perfectly matched to her gifts.

The gravity, grandeur and sheer voluptuousness of Part’s dancing are compelling. Her build is majestic, and the flowing, weighted quality of her movement suggests classical statuary come to life. Her powerful presence heightens the viewer’s sense of the moment.

Looks count, too. Personal beauty isn’t essential for a ballerina, but the fact that Part resembles the glamorous leading ladies of 1940s Hollywood hasn’t done her any harm.

Some observers complain about Part’s weakness in allegro work. (The revered Suzanne Farrell was no whiz at fast dancing either.) Others find Part’s performances too studied. Deeply calculated preparation, leaving little to chance, can yield results that are gorgeous but devoid of spontaneity. This, however, is how Russian dancers work. And it’s Russian style that must be thanked for Part’s beautifully modeled use of her arms and back.

Part trained in St. Petersburg, at the prestigious academy of the Kirov Ballet, graduating into the company’s corps de ballet in 1996. Two years later, she was made a soloist.

Key Roles

Even during Part’s time in Russia, American dance was not foreign to her. The Kirov’s belated introduction of Balanchine’s choreography to its repertory gave her key roles, among them leads in both the romantic Emeralds and classical Diamonds sections of the master’s “Jewels” and the sublime slow movement of “Symphony in C.”

In 2002 she joined ABT as a soloist. She has yet to be elevated to principal rank, and one could argue that she hasn’t yet earned it. She has neither demonstrated proficiency in a wide range of roles nor displayed the focus and fervor today’s dancers need to make it to the top.

Part remains something of a sleeping beauty. But in terms of born-with-it talent, in terms of seizing the viewer’s attention and firing the imagination, she’s well-nigh impossible to beat.

Veronika Part performs with American Ballet Theatre at the New York City Center on Oct. 25 and 28. Information: (1)(212) 581-1212 or http://www.abt.org.

`A Bras le Corps’

The scene is the sanctuary of St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, home of the Danspace Project, consecrated for over three decades to the work of independent experimental choreographers.

Corralled into a square marked out by chairs occupied by spectators, two men confront each other and wrestle. Their intense athletic encounter suggests the love and antagonism that exist during a long, close friendship.

The pair, Boris Charmatz and Dimitri Chamblas, both French, first met as 10-year-olds at the ballet barre in the school of the Paris Opera Ballet. As teenagers in 1992, they turned their backs on classicism and co-choreographed pieces that redefined conventional boundaries of dance. This duet, “A bras le corps,” first shown in 1993, was one of them.

In recent years, the two have pursued their interests separately. From time to time, though, they rework and perform the duet. It serves as an evolving record of their relationship.

The movement is forceful and daring, comprising brutal contacts and heavy falls. It tests the balance of entwined bodies. At one point it transmogrifies into a contest in dance virtuosity that ends, significantly, in collapse.

The title of the piece, which has been translated as “Total Embrace,” may also be a pun on “A bas le corps!” (Down with the body!). The French are nothing if not ironic.

Charmatz and Chamblas perform “A bras le corps” at Danspace Project from Oct. 26 through 29. Information:(1)(212) 674-8194 or http://www.danspaceproject.org.

© 2006 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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