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Daniil Simkin to join ABT as soloist

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ABT announcement:

DANIIL SIMKIN TO JOIN AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE AS SOLOIST

Daniil Simkin will join American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist in October 2008. It was announced today by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie.

Simkin was born in Russia to ballet dancers Dimitrij Simkin and Olga Aleksandrova and was raised in Wiesbaden, Germany, where the family settled in 1990. From the age of six, Simkin often appeared onstage dancing alongside his father. He began his formal ballet training at age ten, under the direction of his mother, and at age 12 he began participating in ballet competitions and galas around the world.

In 2006, Simkin joined the Vienna State Opera as a demi-soloist. His roles with the company included the peasant pas de deux in Elena Tchernichova's Giselle, the Nutcracker-Prince in Vasily Vainonen's The Nutcracker, Benvolio in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet and the Beggar Chief in Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, among others. In 2007, he danced his first principal role, Basilio in Don Quixote, as a guest with the Lithuanian National Opera.

Simkin's awards include First Prize at International Ballet Competitions in St. Pölten, Austria (2000); Vienna, Austria (2001); Perm, Russia (2004); and Varna, Bulgaria (2004), where he also won the Gold Medal. He won the Grand Prix at the International Ballet Competition in Vienna in 2004 and in Helsinki in 2005. In 2006, he won the Senior Gold Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi.

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I don't know if he's still reading us, but anyway congrats to him! What a compagny he's joining !

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Quite obviously Kevin McKenzie realizes that his prized "born to be wild" dream team of male superstars is aging and dwindling. Bocca is retired, Malakhov gone from the roster, Acosta not available to return and unwilling to clear his schedule for ABT. Corella has his own company and international guest gigs, so his time is limited. Stiefel is fragile and in his mid-thirties. Carreno is in his late thirties and still solid but his time is limited. That leaves Gomes to lead the home team with Hallberg and Beloserkovsky giving stalwart danseur noble support. Herman Cornejo is a powerhouse and finally is being given lead roles rather than demi-caractere specialties. But his physique limits him for certain roles (Siegfried in "Swan Lake").

With Joseph Phillips, Daniil Simkin is obviously being groomed to take over as the new generation of male superstars. However, the greater failing is in the development of prima ballerinas from within the company. McKenzie has had only one major discovery - Gillian Murphy, trained in North Carolina School of the Arts by Melissa Hayden who came to ABT pretty much technically fully formed. With the departure of Veronika Part and the inevitable retirements of Julie Kent and Nina Ananiashvili in the next five years or so, who will be the next great "Giselle" or Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake"?

The last major acquisitions Part and Monique Meunier did not work out well for those very talented dancers or for the company. There seems to be some fault on both sides. Alexandra Ansanelli wisely refused a soloist contract with ABT to join the Royal Ballet which has worked out ideally for her becoming a principal dancer last year.

Bravo and congratulations to Daniil and ABT for finding each other.

Now for a great new ballerina...

(edited with correction as to Gillian Murphy's training)

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...

Now for a great new ballerina...

Now that Sarah Lane is getting her shot (Aurora) this spring... and just the right height for Mr. Simkin! Z-J Fang, wasting in the corps, certainly has the look of a Giselle, too!

This NYCB season a flock of ABT men will dance with NYCB. Why shouldn't this relationship be transitive? Number 1 on Ashley Bouder's wish-list is Giselle, and she's already shown it is ideal for her with her Aurora (Vision Scene), Odette (the Giselle-cloned Martins Danish Lake Act 4), and the Russian in Serenade.

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I fully expected that sooner or later, McKenzie would lure Daniil to ABT. Congratulations to all involved! I look forward to watching Daniil as he matures and takes on a varied repertoire.

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It's wonderful to hear good news as a new spring rotates into our world. Congratulations, Daniil!

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...

Now for a great new ballerina...

Now that Sarah Lane is getting her shot (Aurora) this spring... and just the right height for Mr. Simkin! Z-J Fang, wasting in the corps, certainly has the look of a Giselle, too!

This NYCB season a flock of ABT men will dance with NYCB. Why shouldn't this relationship be transitive? Number 1 on Ashley Bouder's wish-list is Giselle, and she's already shown it is ideal for her with her Aurora (Vision Scene), Odette (the Giselle-cloned Martins Danish Lake Act 4), and the Russian in Serenade.

It's great news to hear that Simkin is joining as a soloist. I was just reading on his website how he's studying up to do Fokine's Le Spectre de la Rose. I like his priorities. I hope, however, that some of the corps men who are ready to move up will get that chance: Hoven, Stappas, and Stewart (he gets credit for his previous tour of duty) all deserve those opportunities.

McKenzie has had only one major discovery - Gillian Murphy, trained in North Carolina School of the Arts by Melissa Hayden who came to ABT pretty much technically fully formed.

While Melissa Hayden may have been the NCSA instructor with the highest profile, it was Warren Conover, Frank Smith, Duncan Noble, and Fanchon Cordell - all ABT alumni - who applied the "finish" to Murphy that gave her a chance to succeed at ABT.

The calls for a "great new ballerina" are interesting for the use of the word "new". The word new is used in the same way as instant. Not many seem interested in observing the journey that it takes to produce a beautiful ballerina. Then when she finally achieves her peak, we're tired of seeing her and want something "new". Throw out the old, bring in something fresh and tart. ABT hopefully will never be like that place where a dancer is awarded a principal contract when she gets off her orthodonic braces. There are several dancers who are maturing into great artisitic beauties: Abrera, Lane, Boone, Seo, and Melissa Thomas. Whether they get the opportunities we think they should have remains to be seen. But I don't want them to miss out on chances because of public pressure to bring in a "new ballerina" and the desire for something instantly new and fresh and different.

Bouder as a credible non-Martins-influenced Romantic Giselle is hard to imagine. Maybe Martins will re-choreograph the whole story and give it some punch and for godsakes, speed the awful thing up. (There's your nightmare for tonight.)

But I'm happy with the addition of Simkin and the coming home of Sean Stewart. ABT has some great things in its incubator as well - Joseph Gorak, for one. No need to fret.

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Murphy was a tiny and enchanting ballerina before she even left home - South Carolina for NCSA.

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Congratulations to Mr. Simkin. What a treat for New York audiences! I'd get on a plane to see him dance.

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McKenzie has had only one major discovery - Gillian Murphy, trained in North Carolina School of the Arts by Melissa Hayden who came to ABT pretty much technically fully formed.

While Melissa Hayden may have been the NCSA instructor with the highest profile, it was Warren Conover, Frank Smith, Duncan Noble, and Fanchon Cordell - all ABT alumni - who applied the "finish" to Murphy that gave her a chance to succeed at ABT.

After her success as Odette/Odile in March's Festival at the Mariinsky, Ms. Murphy gave an extensive interview to the Russian publication Vremya*. Following some extensive discussion of the difference in national criteria to perform white ballets (dancing en pointe, turning, in USA vs. use of arms and upper body in Russia), she noted that her performance was helped immensely by an extra week spent working on her arms at the Mariinsky, the topic turned toward her ballet education.

Her first two years of serious training was with former ABT principal William Starrett in Columbia. Then she went to North Carolina, where

I learned from Melissa Hayden - Balanchine prima ballerina, who taught at the School of Arts, although I was not in her class immediately.

Asked about Ms. Hayden's classes, she said

It was quite strict. Little was said. She wanted technique to become our most powerful weapon, "the more, the better." ...Once the first phase of development ended, she began to point to expressing the emotions that drive the steps. In school performances- "Western Symphony", "Theme and Variations", classics of Petipa and Balanchine, Melissa gave excellent preparation for Balanchine ballets, with their strong emphasis on lower-body technique. What I can do on pointe, I credit to this remarkable teacher. She also made us feel the aplomb of a ballerina. It prepared me to contest in Jackson, then in Lausanne. And later to dance in American Ballet Theatre.

While this is perhaps not the thread to go much further with this long interview, I cannot but conclude with the following. When asked whether she was satisfied with her stay in the citadel of "Swan Lake"?, she replied

I am very far at a loss - still need to understand so much. But the arrival here for me has turned into something very solemn. So I am happy.

* http://www.vremya.ru/2008/49/13/200366.html

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How wonderful! I've seen him dance on youtube, and he is phenomenal!

Hopefully we'll have a great set of ballerinas for him to partner!

Question though, what about Dvorovenko, she's still with ABT, correct?

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FYI:

Daniil is dancing in Toronto this coming Sunday, May 4th, in the Stars of the 21st Century Ballet Gala (Toronto Centre for the Arts, 8 PM).

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It saddens me to know that so many talented males are sitting in the corp waiting for years for the opportunity to be promoted and an outsider takes the position. You have no idea, or maybe you do, of the hard work and extreme dedictaiton that some of these gentlemen give with the hopes of one day being promoted. I hope that McKenzie knows what he is doing because he might just lose some wonderful dancers over this.

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Someone above asked about a new great ballerina for ABT? Yevgenia Obraztsova, please!!!! ...and she's the right size for Simkin to partner....

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It saddens me to know that so many talented males are sitting in the corp waiting for years for the opportunity to be promoted and an outsider takes the position. You have no idea, or maybe you do, of the hard work and extreme dedictaiton that some of these gentlemen give with the hopes of one day being promoted. I hope that McKenzie knows what he is doing because he might just lose some wonderful dancers over this.

I totally agree with you. Although I love Danill Simkun and think he is a very talented dancer, Mr McKenzie has dancers who have been sitting in the corps for years who are soloist material and it must become very difficult to stay motivated when ABT seems to be one of the companies that makes it most difficult to get a promotion. Also as far as Joseph Gorak is concerned, he has now been in ABT 2 (studio company) for 2 years is it not time for him to be moved up? I will be interested to see what happens this fall and if any of those boys in the 2nd company get moved up. Many of the girls moved this year in the fall as there seemed to be many openings suddenly in the female corps. There are many very talented dancers in the ABT corps It would be nice to see more of them in the rep.

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In total agreement with you darla788.

What a morale crusher it must be for those talented guys in ABT's corps (and ABT is thick with them) when something like this happens.

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But hasn't this always happened at ABT? What about the talented soloists and corps men Charles Askegard, Carlos Molina, Joaquin de Luz, Danny Tidwell, the 2002 Sean Stewart, Parrish Maynard et al.? All talented, all worthy and all overshadowed circa 1995 to 2006 by the Malakhov/Carreno/Bocca/Corella/Stiefel/Cornejo/Gomes dream team. They knew there was no room at the top at ABT. Askegard and Joaquin de Luz went to NYC Ballet. Maynard to San Francisco Ballet. Molina to Boston Ballet. Now there is room at the top and hence Simkin.

BTW: one fellow who rose from the ranks to the top: Marcelo "the Magnificent" Gomes. Earned his status from the bottom up. Carreno, Malakhov, Stiefel, Acosta etc. were all brought in as established stars from other companies. Bocca and Corella were major wunderkind competition winners who were teenagers. They already were on their way up in the ballet world and joined as soloist or principal. Gomes worked his way up from corps on talent and hard work alone against the greatest competition in the world. Ditto Hallberg.

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The videos and the reviews suggest that Simkin is a unique and extremely gifted performer. He is very young, but virtually everyone comments on his enormous potential.

Several of the posters who have been concerned about the effect of this promotion on members of the corps have used the word "talented." I mean no disrespect, but is "talented" enough to sustain the push to a high-level international ballet career?

Simkin has been very successful on the international competition circuit, which seems a requirement nowadays if you want to be considered for a top job. He has also danced as a member of a major European company. Skimming the biographies of members of the ABT corps, there are not many who have achieved as much as he in such a short time.

On the other hand, employment at ABT still seems attractive to those who have reason to be ambitious in a variety of goals. For example, Joseph Phillips left Miami a soloist to take a corps position at ABT. (To be fair, his tenure at MCB was of brief duration and with with about as much impact as the blink of an eye.) Mikhail Ilyin was a successful and valuable principal at MCB before joining the ABT corps. Clearly, ABT exerts a pull on dancers of many levels of experience and ambition.

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Also as far as Joseph Gorak is concerned, he has now been in ABT 2 (studio company) for 2 years is it not time for him to be moved up? I will be interested to see what happens this fall and if any of those boys in the 2nd company get moved up. Many of the girls moved this year in the fall as there seemed to be many openings suddenly in the female corps. There are many very talented dancers in the ABT corps It would be nice to see more of them in the rep.

I believe that Gorak is barely 18 years old. Who knows if he has even graduated from high school yet. More power to the ballet company that refuses to exploit its extraordinarily gifted children.

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BTW: one fellow who rose from the ranks to the top: Marcelo "the Magnificent" Gomes. Earned his status from the bottom up. Carreno, Malakhov, Stiefel, Acosta etc. were all brought in as established stars from other companies. Bocca and Corella were major wunderkind competition winners who were teenagers. They already were on their way up in the ballet world and joined as soloist or principal. Gomes worked his way up from corps on talent and hard work alone against the greatest competition in the world. Ditto Hallberg.

Also David Halberg began in Studio Company, (oops I just saw that you mentioned him Faux Pas him) Maxim and Irina started in the corps before they were an overnight sensation and many of the soloists have worked their way up. Basically ABT has a corps loaded with soloists however and its a long wait. I have watched Jared Mathews under David Howards tutoring constantly over the last few years and marvel at his tenacity. It was nice to see him have the opportunity to step out in Swan Lake this season even if he was in my opinion sadly miscast as Von Rothbart. I hope he gets to do some roles that are more suited to his demeanour on stage. It must be tough. But NY is such a stimulating place to be around ballet they seem to survive it.

I dont mean to take anything away from Danill. He is a REALLY talented guy and I personally will enjoy seeing him dance. I think ABT is deep with talented dancers and I wonder how many will wait around. A dancers life is short having the opportunity to dance is important. If they dont feel like they are getting it they are going to need to move on.

Here is my list of people in the corps I would like to see more of at ABT

Isabella Boylston, Zhong Jing Fang, Thomas Forster (who stood out in the corps in Swan Lake), Blaine Hoven, Mat Murphy, Simone Messmer, Renata Pavam, Joseph Phillips, Jacquelyn Reyes, Sarawanee Tanatanit, Hee Soo.

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Well, I can name three ABT corps guys -- Isaac Stappas, Alex Hammoudi and Blaine Hoven -- who I saw at the Opera House in Chicago on April 10th, who caught my eye and who look like they're ready to move up. Hoven is young so I can understand letting him marinate in the corps for awhile more but what about Stappas and Hammoudi? In particular, Hammoudi looks like he has the potential to be a good partner for Michelle Wiles, who is languishing a bit for want of an ideal partner. (Hallberg is great -- I just don't think he and Wiles are great together.)

I agree with the poster who said this policy has been ever such. In retrospect, the Baryshnikov regime policy of promoting from within was the aberration. ABT has only reverted back to what it was in the 70s. (And, I freely admit that 70s-era ABT was a Golden Age for ABT.)

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I believe that Gorak is barely 18 years old. Who knows if he has even graduated from high school yet. More power to the ballet company that refuses to exploit its extraordinarily gifted children.

Well 2 years in studio company (now ABT II) is a long time when he could have been completing his training in a school setting if they did not want to "exploit" him. I believe he was already a corps member of Orlando Ballet at 16 when ABT II offered him a contract in April 2006. My guess is that he completed high school in 2007 but I could be wrong.

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I think its wiser to go a little to slow than a little too fast while developing young dancers. An 18-year-old male is often still physically immature, perhaps judged not quite strong enough (in terms of brute strength) for the demands of a professional career. I'd rather have a dancer spend an extra year in the intermediate program than to lose a year to injury.

ABT II is a two-year program. Not all of its dancers stay for the full two years, but many do. Staying for the second year is not analogous to repeating first grade.

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I will second your comments, Darla. I find this extremely weird. For one example: Misha or Mikhail Iliyn, formerly a PRINCIPAL of Miami City Ballet (born in Russia and trained, yadda yadda) has joined ABT in the CORPS DE BALLET. He has over 10-15 years of performing expoerience. Now this young kid comes in as a soloist. Artistic decisions such as this really baffle me. While it is great for Danil, You can't help but to think of people like Misha, and others who have put in so much time at ABT waiting for that soloist promotion, only to have the place taken by an outsider. Sounds like a cute little deal was cracked.

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Figurante do you think if they have joined the corps from a Principal or soloist contract at another company there are promises that may have been made as to there advancement?

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