"I need the Juliets, and I need the Giselles. I need to not just do the second ballerina."
So says Simone Messmer, one of the most individual and stunning dancers on any stage, who is leaving her soloist position at American Ballet Theatre after this season. In a heartfelt interview by Gia Kourlas in Time Out New York, she reveals that she will be joining San Francisco Ballet as a soloist. We echo Kourlas' comments in that we fully understand her decision, but will really miss her onstage at the Met. (She will perform with SFB here in New York in October.)
Messmer is the kind of dancer that you are always happy to see cast when you open your program. She's one of the most versatile members of ABT. The amplitude of her dancing sets her apart—she can't help, it seems, but give 200 percent of her energy to the role at hand. Many of her standout roles are in the contemporary rep—Tharp, Morris, and Taylor ballets automatically come to mind—but she's a gorgeous classical dancer, too, in ballets like Swan Lake and Giselle. (Her Myrtha is chilling in its strength and undercurrent of sadness.) She makes no qualms about being an outspoken dancer—"You have to look after yourself because no one else will," she says in the interview. It can be difficult to speak up for yourself in the ballet world, and that very adult understanding of self-worth comes through in her dancing onstage.
She talks at length about how working with ABT's resident choreographer Alexei Ratmansky is one of the most difficult things she's leaving behind (although, of course, Ratmansky works with SFB too—the Shostakovich Trilogy that premiered last month will be performed by SFB next year). Among many great Ratmansky parts, her Maiden, which she originated in his Firebird last year, was my favorite role in that ballet—witty, strange, and poignant. A kind of perfect encapsulation of a dancer whom we adore and admire.
Messmer in Taylor's Black Tuesday. Photo by Fabrizio Ferri, Courtesy ABT.