Dancers & Companies

Why Daniil Simkin is Joining Staatsballett Berlin as a Principal Dancer

PC NYC Dance Project

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!

By Rick Tjia, Dance Talent Scout, Cirque du Soleil Casting

The dancers file into an audition room. They are given a number and asked to wait for registration to finish before the audition starts. At the end of the room, behind a table and a computer (and probably a number of mobile devices), there I sit, doing audio tests and updating the audition schedule as the room fills up with candidates. The dancers, more nervous than they need to be, see me, typing, perhaps teasing my colleagues, almost certainly with a coffee cup at my side.

Keep reading... Show less
YAGP competitor Bianca Scudamore. Photo by VAM, courtesy YAGP

By itself, a competition trophy won't really prepare you for professional life. Sometimes it is not even a plus. "Some directors are afraid that a kid who wins a lot of medals will come to their company with too many expectations," says Youth America Grand Prix artistic director Larissa Saveliev. "Directors want to mold young dancers to fit their company."

More valuable than taking home a title from a competition is the exposure you can get and the connections you can make while you're there. But how can you take advantage of the opportunity?

Keep reading... Show less
Photo by Anne Van Aerschot

New York Live Arts opens its 2017-18 season with A Love Supreme, a revised work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and collaborator Salva Sanchis. Known as a choreographer of pure form, pattern and musicality, De Keersmaeker can bring a visceral power to the stage without the use of narrative. She has taken this 2005 work to John Coltrane's famous jazz score of the same title and recast it for four young men of her company Rosas, giving it an infusion of new energy.

Photo by Anne Van Aerschot

Keep reading... Show less
Career
Johns' Map

Before too long, dancers and choreographers will get to create on the luxurious 170-acre property in rural Connecticut that is currently home to legendary visual artist Jasper Johns.

If you think that sounds far more glamorous than your average choreographic retreat, you're right. Though there are some seriously generous opportunities out there, this one seems particularly lavish.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Ashley Ellis, photo by Albert Ayzenberg, courtesy of Ashley Ellis

Every dancer has learned—probably the hard way—that healthy feet are the foundation of a productive and happy day in the studio. As dancers, our most important asset has to carry the weight (literally) of everything we do. So it's not surprising that most professional dancers have foot care down to an art.

Three dancers shared their foot-care products they can't live without.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
via Instagram, Company Cooperative

Dancers trying their hand at designing is nothing new. But they do tend to stick with studio or performance-wear (think Miami City Ballet's Ella Titus and her line of knit warm-ups or former NYCB dancer Janie Taylor and her ballet costumes). But several dancers at American Ballet Theatre—corps members Jamie Kopit, Erica Lall, Katie Boren, Katie Williams, Lauren Post, Zhong-Jing Fang and soloist Cassandra Trenary—are about to launch a fashion line that's built around designs that can be worn outside of the studio. Titled Company Cooperative, the luxe line of women's wear is handmade in New York City's garment district and designed by the dancers themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers & Companies
A still from Duet, via CNN Style

Royal Ballet dancers Yasmine Naghdi and Beatriz Stix-Brunell recently got together for a different kind of performance: no decadent costumes, sets, stage makeup or lighting. Instead, the principal and first soloist danced choreography by principal character artist Kristen McNally in a stark studio.

The movement is crystal clear, and at the beginning, Naghdi and Stix-Brunell duck and weave around each other with near vacant stares. Do they even know they have a partner? And how should they interact? The situation raises a much larger question: How often do we see a female duet in ballet?

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers & Companies
Neumeier's costume rendering for Orphée et Eurydice. Photo courtesy Lyrica Opera of Chicago.

As a student, Milwaukee native John Neumeier appeared in an opera at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. As Hamburg Ballet's artistic director and one of the world's leading choreographers, Neumeier now returns to the Midwest to direct and choreograph a new version of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, a co-production of the Lyric Opera, LA Opera and Hamburg State Opera. Set to open in Chicago September 23 with the Joffrey Ballet, the ambitious work will see additional engagements in Los Angeles and Hamburg over the next two years.

How did you come to be involved with this collaboration?

It was initiated by the director of the Lyric Opera, Anthony Freud, but I had already been in contact with Ashley Wheater about a separate project with the Joffrey Ballet. The two things came together—and this was really interesting to me because Chicago was important at the start of my career. I was born in Milwaukee, but most of my training was in or near Chicago.

You've previously created version of Orpheus for Hamburg Ballet. What about this particular production caught your interest?

When I got this offer from Anthony, I just went back to the piece and tried to sense what it meant to me now. Gluck's Orphée was part of a push to reform opera and to make a complete work of art involving music, text and dance. What interests me—particularly in this French version we are doing—is that dance plays such an essential role. When Agnes de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, it was considered a revolution in musical theater, because dance moved the plot along. In Orphée, we can see that the same idea had been realized several centuries ago: that dance would not be just a divertissement, but a theatrical element, literally "moving" the plot along and expressing in another form the emotion of each situation.

Another idea in Orphée which fascinates me is its directness in projecting profound human emotions—emotions not used as an excuse for vocal virtuosity, but expressed in simple and direct musical terms. In Orphée, we have a mythical subject which is related in an extremely relevant, familiar, human way.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!