Why Daniil Simkin is Joining Staatsballett Berlin as a Principal Dancer
One of the ballet world's busiest superstars is adding another role to his resume, and it's a big one. American Ballet Theatre principal Daniil Simkin is joining Staatsballett Berlin as a principal beginning with the 2018-2019 season. Though he will be based in Berlin, the virtuoso will maintain his position at ABT, performing with the company as often as his schedule will allow.
In some ways, the move makes perfect sense: Simkin, who grew up in Germany, has been performing all over the world as a guest artist for years, and will get to tackle contemporary work that he doesn't have the opportunity to dance at ABT. Plus, he'll be joined by a very familiar face: ABT artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky will create a new La Bayadère for the company in the 2018-19 season.
But on the other hand, Staatsballett has been engulfed in controversy for the last few years. Few were happy when contemporary choreographer Nacho Duato was hired as director back in 2014. Since then, his tenure has been rife with criticism and even a dancer strike. Last year, it was announced that Duato would be stepping down to be replaced by choreographer Sasha Waltz and Johannes Öhman, former artistic director at the Royal Swedish Ballet. The dancers were even more unhappy with this leadership choice, creating a petition against them that gained thousands of signatures.
But none of that has deterred Simkin, who's excited about joining a company that's in transition—and whose hiring could be a glimmer of hope for dancers worried that the company will move too far away from classical technique. He gave us the scoop on his new role:
Simkin and Sarah Lane in Giselle. Photo by Erin Baiano
Did you seek out this new position, or did the directors approach you?
I congratulated Johannes, who I've known for many years, when he was named director. I guested at the Royal Swedish Ballet with him. We kept in touch and eventually Sasha came into the discussion and it crystallized—I don't know who brought it up—but we came to the conclusion that this would be a win-win situation because I could return to Germany and be part of something new. They are resetting the whole institution, and I'll be a key figure in that.
Do you still have family in Germany? Was that part of your decision?
Yes, my parents live in Frankfurt and I'm excited to be closer to them. I know a lot of the dancers from back when I was in Berlin at age 17. I know Polina Semionova very well, I just danced with her recently. I miss Europe, having grown up there, and I'm excited to expand my spectrum of choreographers. There are many layers to this decision.
Any choreographers in particular you're excited to work with?
I would be excited to work with Sasha and William Forsythe and Kylián. The contemporary classics. I'm more than open to be part of cutting edge European choreographers' creations, and Johannes has great taste. He made great headway at the Royal Swedish to produce contemporary choreography while maintaining classical ballet. I believe in the concept of a company that can create something cutting edge while also dancing classical works.
What about INTENSIO and the other side projects you've worked on while in New York?
I just finished Falls the Shadow at the Guggenheim which went very well. I'm hoping to continue with that creativity on the side. I'll be based in Berlin but I'm open to possibilities.
Do you have any sense of how much you'll be back at ABT?
I will be a principal dancer. I will still be an integral part of the company. In the big picture this is a new step for me and a new chapter in my life. It's kind of like the return of the prodigal son: I feel in my heart that I'm part of the culture in Germany and I'm happy to bring back what I've learned in the States.
Congratulations to Simkin on his new position!
Showing choreography at a major venue in New York City is a goal and milestone for many dance artists. Yet when such an opportunity comes their way, choreographers frequently find themselves scrambling for time and technical resources to give their work that professional shine. What they end up performing may not have the polish they intended. "Far too often artists are arriving at their presenting house and the piece isn't ready," says Adrienne Willis, the executive and artistic director of Lumberyard Contemporary Performing Arts, an organization that helps dance artists develop new work.
Back when Lumberyard was known as the American Dance Institute and operated out of a strip mall in Rockville, Maryland, it pioneered its Incubator program to whip new pieces into shape, kind of like the "out-of-town" tryout model for theater. Several of the artists it supported ultimately brought their shows to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, one of New York City's most prestigious venues, which quickly recognized the positive influence of the Incubator on performances.
Since Thanksgiving is finally here, it's officially time to talk Nutcracker. With countless productions taking place between now and Christmas (and even some through the new year), we've been keeping tabs on Instagram to check in on rehearsals. Whether you're obsessed with all things Sugar Plum Fairy or the snow scene is more your speed, we've got your first look at the holiday classic.
We have a feeling even the Boston Ballet dancing bear couldn't keep up with second soloist Lawrence Rines' tricks in Russian.
For the past 3 years, choreographer Stephen Petronio has been reviving groundbreaking works of postmodern dance through his BLOODLINES project. This season, although his company will be performing a work by Merce Cunningham, his own choreography moves in a more luxurious direction. We stepped into the studio with Petronio and his dancers where they were busy creating a new work, Hardness 10, named for the categorization of diamonds.
'Tis the season to have some fun in the kitchen. If you want to get more creative than simply baking another pumpkin pie, try these Nutcracker-themed treats—created by and for dancers. These recipes from former Boston Ballet and Joffrey Ballet dancers were first published in Dance Magazine's December 1990 issue. Today, they're still guaranteed to turn any holiday party or dressing room into a true Land of the Sweets.
We always figured that stretching made us more flexible by loosening up our muscles and joints. Some of us, ahem, might have even tried to fall asleep in our middle splits to get our stubbornly stiff inner thighs to let go.
But it turns out that might not actually be how stretching works.
A new review published in the Scandinavian Journal of Science & Medicine in Sports suggests that increased flexibility actually comes from your brain growing more used to the tension.
Everyone knows that training is the cornerstone of a successful career in dance. But as a dance educator, I also take comfort in the fact that high-quality dance training helps shape students into genuinely good people (in addition to creating future artists, which is a wonderful goal in itself.) These are the lessons dance teaches that help make students into better humans:
Improvement Takes Commitment Over Time
In my tap courses at Cal State University, sometimes students are shocked when they can't learn something quickly. In today's world, we're used to getting fast results. You need an answer—Google it. You need to talk to someone—text them. The cooking channel wants your dinner to be easy, the physical trainer wants your workout to be five minutes, Rosetta Stone can have you speaking Mandarin in an hour.
It's no secret that affording college is a challenge for many students. And for dancers, there are added complications, like the relative lack of merit scholarships that take artistic talent into consideration and the improbability of a stable salary to pay off loans post-graduation. But no matter your budget, a smart approach to the application process can help you focus less on money and more on your training.
According to Drexel University performing arts department head Miriam Giguere, figuring out the kind of financial assistance a school offers is just as important as navigating what kind of dance program you want. Here's how to incorporate finances into your decision-making process:
When dancers get injured, they often think they should eat less. The thought process goes something like, Since I'm not able to move as much as I usually do, I'm not burning enough calories to justify the portions I'm used to.
But the truth is, scaling back your meals could actually be detrimental to your healing process.
With her fearless demeanor onstage, it's easy to see how Washington Ballet apprentice Sarah Steele attracted the keen eye of former American Ballet Theatre stars Julie Kent and Ethan Stiefel. Promoted mid-season from the studio company by artistic director Kent, Steele was cast by Stiefel as the lead in Frontier, his world premiere for The Washington Ballet, this past spring. For the space-themed piece, Steele donned a black-and-white "space suit" onstage, exhibiting dual qualities of strength and grace. Most evocative about Steele's dancing might be her innate intelligence—she was accepted to Harvard on early admission, and plans to resume her studies there in the future. But first, she'll dance.
Lots of college groups do stepping—a form of body percussion based on slapping, tapping and stomping—but Step Afrika! is the first professional dance company to do it. They are currently at New York City's New Victory Theater, presenting The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence, a show based on the painting series by Harlem Renaissance artist Jacob Lawrence about The Great Migration of the 1900s, when millions of African Americans fled the Jim Crow South and traveled by train to the North for a better life. The Great Migration transformed the demographics of the country, and Jacob Lawrence's paintings became famous for their bold color and evocative power.