In the past few weeks, I've been lucky enough to film the photo shoots of two very lovely dancers: National Ballet of Canada corps member Adji Cissoko, and American Ballet Theatre principal Veronika Part. On the surface, these ballerinas could not be more different.
Adji hails from Munich, Germany, and has only just begun her career. Her raw talent and enthusiasm motivated every pose she struck during the shoot--she was all high kicks, big smiles, bright colors, and sassiness. When she spoke about dancing Balanchine's Serenade for the first time, she almost became giddy describing the ballet's powerful opening scene, and the feeling was catching. I found myself smiling and agreeing with her as she spoke.
Veronika is Vaganova born-and-bred, a St. Petersburg native and a graduate of the Vaganova School. After six years with the Kirov, she joined ABT in 2002. She is a seasoned, mature ballerina, which was obvious from the moment she entered the photographer's studio and coolly and quickly got ready for the shoot. Her poses were polished and picture-perfect; she knew what looked good on her and what didn't. She worked more on the tiny nuances of each position, and less on the technique. This, as she was well aware, was not something she needed to worry about. This photo shoot was clearly not a new experience for her.
But under all these differences, Adji and Veronika shared one very important quality: Their steely work ethic and pursuit of perfection. They smiled and had fun while talking to all of us at the shoots, but as soon as the camera flashed, they perused the result on the computer screen with a stonily serious, thoughtful expression. It was obvious to me that this exacting approach to their art had made them what they are--a young dynamo about to blossom, and an acclaimed prima ballerina at the height of her powers.