MY NEW YORK: VIOLETTA KOMYSHAN

MY NEW YORK: VIOLETTA KOMYSHAN

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MY NEW YORK: VIOLETTA KOMYSHAN

On the third episode of "My New York," fashion's favorite Ballerina details how she found herself through dance

On the third episode of "My New York," fashion's favorite Ballerina details how she found herself through dance

Photography: Indie Jansons

Styling: Yael Quint

Text: Sam Tracy

Hailing from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Violetta Komyshan is the Big Apple Ballerina. With Stevie Nicks-worthy locks and a contagious laugh to boot, it’s no surprise  Komyshan has built a social media empire out of pirouettes and pencil skirts. A quick scroll through her Instagram showcases an endless stream of glamorous selfies and fashionable high kicks, fusing her lifelong passion for dance and a new(er) found status as fashion it-girl. Komyshan is the blueprint of a globally minded city like New York; born in Toronto and raised in Ukraine, Komyshan immigrated to the US at five years old before stumbling into her first ballet class at nine. “I had always wanted to do ballet, but my mom didn't really know where to send me because she’s from Ukraine,” recounts Komyshan as the dancer-to-be successfully auditioned her way into acceptance to Ballet Tech School. Intensive days spent at the barre and on pointe opened more doors for the burgeoning ballerina, ushered into New York’s prestigious LaGuardia High School after an improvised audition set to the tune the teenage-Komyshan’s favorite movie score, Twilight’s Bella’s Lullaby. As her classmates went on to pursue other artistic endeavors, Komyshan has kept steadfast in her performance pursuits, taking her skills on stage from Manhattan to the world's stage. “Dance is the perfect combination of mind, body, and soul,” she shares. “I'm just on cloud nine doing it and I don’t want to ever stop.”

Check out episode 3 of V Magazine's "My New York" created in collaboration with MOUSSY VINTAGE

Stay tuned for new episodes launching every Friday here on Vmagazine.com, the series will spotlight NYC's movers-and-shakers as they guide us through the formative spots in the city that have inspired and cultivated their craft.

Read the full length interview with Violetta Komyshan below!

V Magazine: I understand you had an international upbringing. What did that look like?

Violetta Komyshan: I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and I lived all over New York City. I was born in Toronto and moved when I was about two to New York City to Brooklyn. And then I ended up living with my grandparents in Ukraine for a year and a half when I was four and then moved back and started elementary school. And then now, I'm in Bed Stuy.

V: What does being from New York mean to you?

VK: Being from New York gives you a sense of awareness and maturity that I think a lot of people from other places maybe don't have until they live here. It's a really intense city that makes you grow up really fast because you have to fend for yourself in a lot of ways. I was taking the subway when I was way too young to be taking the subway alone. To me it was just really interesting. My mom would be like, "where are you?" And then she would get mad at me because I skipped the bus and my teacher would call her and be like, "Violetta wasn't on the bus today." Giving her a heart attack, that poor woman.

V: What was your adjustment period like moving from Eastern Europe to New York City?

VK: I remember when I moved from Eastern Europe to New York City, it was interesting. I didn't speak any English. I was obviously like four years old when I first moved to Ukraine. It was funny to come back and not know how to speak English and then obviously go straight to school. I completely remember being in the library and they made us write our names down to borrow a book. I just could remember writing my name and finally being like, "oh!” It clicked. “I remember how to write my name finally.”

V: I can imagine that’s quite an adjustment to make as a young kid! How soon after did you start to dance? 

VK: I was nine years old. There was a school called Ballet Tech and this man, Elliot Feld had a program that would go around to New York City schools that are in Brooklyn, Staten Island, out of the city. It was only public schools and they would audition kids that just wanted to try ballet.  I had always wanted to do ballet, but my mom didn't really know where to send me because she's from Ukraine. And she was just like, "you should dance," because I was just this scrawny little flexible girl. I ended up getting into the program with one other girl.

V: That’s super impressive! When you were showing us around Ballet Tech, you only had wonderful things to say about it.

VK: If I put my memories back into my years at Ballet Tech, it was fun. I mean, we were so young then and I don't think I appreciated it fully at that age for what it was. As I got older, I realized, "wow, I'm going to the most beautiful school." It was very small and we had so much attention, so much care from the faculty and we knew everyone by their first name—that's pretty rare. I knew everybody in the school because you pass each other in the hallway, you take classes together, you dance together. 

V: So you knew very early on that this was the right place for you. 

VK: Yeah. One of my friends used to say, "Violetta is on cloud nine in ballet” because I would go into the class and I was so happy, I loved it. I also remember my teacher would always stand on one side of the bar and put me on the end. At the time, I was like, "oh my God, am I bad? Why is she putting me on the end?". I was so sad about it. But then no, she would put me on the end because when we’d flip, I would be in the front so people could watch me because I knew the combinations. There's a perfect example of what it felt like to be a kid and then grow up and realize certain things that you're so unaware of.

V: That’s so true. The ballet world is also notorious for being competitive and intense because of its super high expectations. How do you deal with those pressures?

VK: I’ve definitely gone through phases of "am I good enough? Am I skinny enough? Am I talented enough? Am I working hard enough?" It's hard. It's a lot when you're young, especially, and going through serious academic regimen but then also dancing. It took a toll on me when I was younger for sure. Also when you're 13, I think everybody goes through a slight dip or depression. That's why I think it's so important to check in with youth. You think everything you do at that age is so important. It is important, but you have your whole life ahead of you and you're going to change so much. You're going to grow up so much.

Violetta wears pants MOUSSY VINTAGE

V: Your time at Ballet Tech was also transformational because it was the pipeline to entry into LaGuardia. I understand they have a pretty intensive process for auditioning—what was your auditioning process like?

VK: When I first got accepted to LaGuardia, I remember being in my middle school class in eighth grade and we all got our letters and it was, again, I think it was me and one or two other students. The audition process was interesting—you had to choose your own music. We had a while to prepare and I didn't get any help or anything. I ended up using a song from Twilight because Twilight was huge at the time and I was obsessed with that. I would turn on the music at home and just started improvising, trying to figure out what worked with it. I came up with the beginning and I came up with the end and when I got there that day, I just winged it and sort of improved the whole thing.

V: That’s so bold! Had you ever done that before?

VK: No (laughs). I guess I learned it there, that day. Sometimes when it's too planned, you might forget something or psych yourself out, you freeze up. In this situation, the audience doesn’t know what you’re doing so even if you mess up, just keep going.

V: Fake it till you make it, right? Speaking of audiences, how would you describe the feeling of performing live on stage?

VK: Well, live performing is terrifyingly beautiful. They say, "if you're not nervous, it's not a good sign." You should be nervous, which is kind of terrible. You should be anxious about performing because it’s the only time in your life where you're standing there and the spotlight is on you. But it's amazing. You're entertaining, right? You go out there and people are just in awe and they're so happy and usually, they leave really happy, inspired. I hope to inspire and change someone's mind about something.

V: What's the most rewarding part of what you do?

VK: Dance is the perfect combination of mind, body, and soul. I'm just on cloud nine, so happy doing it. It also makes people happy, it's really entertaining. You see a dancer and you see the light energy, it's easy, she's flowing, but it's so many years of work and dedication to get to that place where it seems easy. I find that dance is really honest because you can't can't hide anything. On social media or in movies, you can edit, cut, use CGI or something. But in dance, it's just you in front of an audience and you can't fake anything. It's impossible to fake being a good dancer. People immediately can see it and they know, which is why it is such a cut-throat and intense career and why you need to be prepared. I know prima ballerinas who still work with my coach and who still go in every single day to train. In ballet, you do one really good show and you have to keep it up. It doesn't end there.

Credits: SERIES CREATORS SAM TRACY & CZAR VAN GAAL  DIRECTOR INDIE JANSONS  DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY CONNOR WEST FASHION YAEL QUINT ASSOCIATE PRODUCER SAMUEL MORRIS  VIDEO EDITOR NICK FREEMAN  COLORIST MARIANO FLORES  SOUND RECORDIST HANNAH QIN  

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