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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!
Rebecca Warthen was on a year-long assignment with the Peace Corps in Dominica last fall when a storm started brewing. A former dancer with North Carolina Dance Theatre (now Charlotte Ballet) and Columbia City Ballet, she'd been sent to the Caribbean island nation to teach ballet at the Dominica Institute of the Arts and in outreach classes at public schools.
But nine and a half months into her assignment, a tropical storm grew into what would become Hurricane Maria—the worst national disaster in Dominica's history.
On the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba tours the U.S. this spring with the resolute Cuban prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso a the helm. Named a National Hero of Labor in Cuba, Alonso, 97, has weathered strained international relations and devastating fiscal challenges to have BNC emerge as a world-class dance company. Her dancers are some of ballet's best. On offer this time are Alonso's Giselle and Don Quixote. The profoundly Cuban company performs in Chicago May 18–20, Tampa May 23, Washington, D.C., May 29–June 3 and Saratoga, New York June 6–8.
Ever wonder why some dancers' port de bras appears to be disconnected from their body? It typically comes down to how they stabilize their shoulder blades, says Marimba Gold-Watts, Pilates instructor to dancers like Robert Fairchild.
"Dancers often hear the cue to pull down on their latissimus,"—the biggest muscle in the back—"which doesn't allow the shoulder blades to lie flat," she says. "It makes the bottom tips of the shoulder blades wing, or flare out, off the rib cage."
Sidra Bell is one of those choreographers whose movement dancers are drawn to. Exploring the juxtaposition of fierce athleticism and pure honesty in something as simple as stillness, her work brings her dancers to the depths of their abilities and the audience to the edge of their seats.
A few weeks ago, American Ballet Theatre announced the A.B.T. Women's Movement, a new program that will support three women choreographers per season, one of whom will make work on the main company.
"The ABT Women's Movement takes inspiration from the groundbreaking female choreographers who have left a lasting impact on ABT's legacy, including Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp," said artistic director Kevin McKenzie in a press release.
Hypothetically, this is a great idea. We're all for more ballet commissions for women. But the way ABT has promoted the initiative is problematic.
Some dancers move to New York City with their sights set on a dream job: that one choreographer or company they have to dance for. But when Maggie Cloud graduated from Florida State University in 2010, she envisioned herself on a less straightforward path.
"I always had in mind that I would be dancing for different people," she says. "I knew I had some kind of range that I wanted to tap into."
New York City Ballet is celebrating the Jerome Robbins Centennial with twenty (20!) ballets. The great American choreographer died in 1998, so very few of today's dancers have actually worked with him. There are plenty of stories about how demanding (at times brutally so) he could be in rehearsal. But Peter Boal has written about Robbins in a more balanced, loving way. In this post he writes about how Robbins' crystal clear imagery helped him approach a role with clarity and purpose.
Who says you need fancy equipment to make a festival-worthy dance film? Right now, two New York City–based dance film festivals are calling for aspiring filmmakers to show their stuff—and you don't need anything more cumbersome than a smartphone to get in on the action.
Here's everything you need to know about how to submit:
When Lisset Santander bourréed onstage as Myrtha in BalletMet's Giselle this past February, her consummate portrayal of the Queen of the Wilis was marked by steely grace and litheness. The former Cuban National Ballet dancer had defected to the U.S. at 21, and after two years with the Ohio company, she's now closer to the dance career she says she always wanted: one of limitless possibilities.