- Growing up in an artistically-enriching environment often plants the seed for lifelong appreciation for the arts. For Veronika Sheremetieva (affectionately known around Queensland Ballet as Miss Nika), this was ignited by her grandmother, who exposed her to ballet, opera, literature and art from a young age.
“She had a long love for ballet and was physically gifted herself, but her parents were against it. She fought in WWII and was 21 when the war ended, so she lived her passion through me,” she says.
At just six years old, Nika was enrolled into her first ballet school in a tiny town north of Siberia, in the former Soviet Union. Despite lacking facility, her teacher recommended she audition to a professional school by age 10. Nika and her grandmother moved to their hometown of Baku, Azerbaijan to pursue this. However, success didn’t come easily.
“Everyone who saw me audition would see all the physical challenges I’d have to overcome, so I was often turned down,” she reflects.
“Then, one of the panel in my Baku Choreography School audition allowed me to show improvisation in my dance. Everyone saw the maturity in my artistry and decided to give me a chance. That’s how I started fulltime training.”
Two years later, a civil war broke out, forcing Nika and her grandmother to move to Moscow. Having to audition for placement in a professional school again, her artistic potential opened doors, ultimately triumphing over her struggles in facility.
“I enrolled into Moscow Dance Academy, where ballet was given equal priority to all other dance genres. When I was 14, Natalia Zolotova from the Bolshoi visited us to scout for talent. She hand-picked me out of 20 other girls, and I ended up in her hands,” she recalls.
Graduating four years later, Nika danced professionally around the world before settling in South Yorkshire, UK. She picked up a contract in Leeds, and was quickly promoted to backstage Captain of a group of ballerinas. This sparked the beginning of her teaching career, spanning almost 20 years. Nika now credits overcoming the physical, mental and emotional obstacles from her past for galvanising her love for developing professional skills in young dancers.
“I started teaching adult classes in England. When I moved to Brisbane in 2005 I joined a dance studio to stay in shape, and they eventually invited me to give classes,” she says.
“I started teaching younger children over time, and realised there were many things missing in their foundation because they progress too quickly. Ballet form is like iron – it takes time to forge, so I focused on inspiring and injecting passion for both ballet and hard work in my students.”
In 2017, Nika joined Queensland Ballet Academy, where she combines her skills in professional foundations with academics in young children. In just four years she has taught in the Associate and Senior Programs, become Head of Associate Program, founded the Academy’s Ballet History studies and established the new Foundation Program, launching next year.
“I would love Queensland Ballet Academy to become an ambassador for raising a generation of people deeply submerged in art, in all its glory,” she declares.
“Ballet comes from the inspiration of amazing artists, sculptors, myths, legends, music and literature – if we can raise a generation who can’t imagine life without it, even if they’re not ballet dancers, I think we’ll achieve a major shift in the treatment of art in Australia.”
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