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Daniil Simkin to join ABT as soloist


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#31 ngitanjali

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:57 AM

Bravo, DRB for that insight. Talent (and Daniil is an electric, exciting talent) must be recognized. Baryshnikov probably blew Ted Kivitt and Royes Fernandez out of the water when he joined ABT in 1974. Should they not have hired him? Who other than those two dancers would have gained from that? Blaine Hoven may be a very nice dancer and able to carry a lead role but will he be a star who can sell 4000 seats at the Metropolitan Opera House? Very likely not. Ditto Isaac Stappas who has had a lot of solo opportunities especially during the City Center season.

How about some of the women who have been languishing: Maria Bystrova, Zhong-Jing Fang et al. Anna Liceica who had a lot of potential was just thrown away. Look at all the been there, done that with the principal casting this coming season (only Cornejo and to a lesser extant Murphy have substantial new roles). There are lots of sad stories of missed opportunities at ABT and elsewhere. I am glad that Daniil is getting an opportunity and maybe if ABT adds a week to its City Center season more of these young corps dancers will get a chance.


What about Erica Cornejo? She is exceptionally talented, however, she left to go to Boston because of the lack of roles for her. I mean, Boston is an excellent company but still...

#32 Memo

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 09:33 AM

Well I guess there is more to be said from winning a competition than any of us care to admit. I always wonder why Kevin McKenzie let Joseph Gatti slip through his fingers. (we always had heard Mr McKenzie felt he was too short) But that is also the case with Mr Simkun. I think it comes down to a matter of personal taste. And of course the star power generated by the internet and the international ballet competitions these days is an interesting phenomenon.
I just think that it is a shame to fall into the trap of newer is better. Then again as a director when the dancer with that certain something and it is in your midst you cannot deny it and it is responsibility to your company and to your audience to present it. For someone like Kevin McKenzie who is in a position to have access to most all great dancers all over the world, if he says something that he really loves why not have it.
The bottom line will be once he has acquired the talent (which Mr McKenzie does very well) will he develop it, encourage it and keep it stimulated and on fire in this company. Sometimes I feel that many of the huge talents both male and female are languishing in the ranks and not getting the opportunities that their talent thirsts for.
A ballet company is a living breathing entity not a collection to be kept in a vault. Its important for every human to have a place and although not everyone is destined to be a principal dancer keeping it alive for them is what keeps a company interesting to watch. :helpsmilie:

#33 nysusan

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 09:43 AM

Congratulations to Daniil, I can't wait to see him on a regular basis!

This practice of bringing in stars and/or dancers with star potential has been going on at ABT since at least the early 70's and probably long before that (did Igor Youskevitch or Alicia Alonso work their way up through the corps at ABT? How about Lupe Serrano? Let's not forget that our home grown ballerina Cynthia Gregory was imported from the SF ballet where she was already a soloist. What effect did that have on the morale of the corps?). I'm sure it's discouraging from a dancer's point of view but from a management point of view – when you see a dancer with enormous talent you have to grab them, that's what the audience wants. Especially the NY audience.

This conversation has been going on at BalletTalk for years – just pull up any old ABT thread. We all have our own favorites & can never understand why they aren't given more opportunities. There are many, many talented dancers in the corps and soloist levels at ABT, but you know what? As someone who has sat in the audience for ABT 20-30 performances a year for the past 5 years I can tell you that IMO not one of the current corps men has the raw talent of Daniil Simkin. They have OTHER talents, and hopefully they will continue to develop but McKenzie would have been crazy to let Simkin get away - whether or not he ultimately works out at ABT and regardless of the effect it has on the morale of the corps. Ditto Joseph Philips & Mikhail Ilyin.

Ballet is not a democracy, and not for the faint hearted. Each dancer develops at their own pace but hard work + dedication simply do not guarantee success. Any dancer who doesn't feel they are getting enough opportunities with ABT (or any other company) needs to find another job. It's worked well recently for Carlos Molino, Erica Cornejo and Melissa Barak, and despite the fact that I will miss one of my favorite dancers terribly I truly think Veronika Part's decision to leave is the right one.

I also agree with Faux Pas that McKenzie does a great job developing male talent but is severely deficient in developing ballerinas. In fact I am even more down on ABT's female principal dancers than he is, but that's for another day…

#34 bart

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 11:08 AM

I also agree with Faux Pas that McKenzie does a great job developing male talent but is severely deficient in developing ballerinas. In fact I am even more down on ABT's female principal dancers than he is, but that's for another day…

Or another thread? (I hope so, especially since (1) it's a topic of great interest and (2) ABT has a national following beyond that of other U.S. companies, which many of us have a certain amount of familiarity with the dancers being discussed, which is not always the case with NYCB, PNB, SFB, MCB, etc.). So ... anyone want to start a new topic?

#35 bingham

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 11:33 AM

Congratulations to Daniil, I can't wait to see him on a regular basis!

This practice of bringing in stars and/or dancers with star potential has been going on at ABT since at least the early 70's and probably long before that (did Igor Youskevitch or Alicia Alonso work their way up through the corps at ABT? How about Lupe Serrano? Let's not forget that our home grown ballerina Cynthia Gregory was imported from the SF ballet where she was already a soloist. What effect did that have on the morale of the corps?). I'm sure it's discouraging from a dancer's point of view but from a management point of view – when you see a dancer with enormous talent you have to grab them, that's what the audience wants. Especially the NY audience.

This conversation has been going on at BalletTalk for years – just pull up any old ABT thread. We all have our own favorites & can never understand why they aren't given more opportunities. There are many, many talented dancers in the corps and soloist levels at ABT, but you know what? As someone who has sat in the audience for ABT 20-30 performances a year for the past 5 years I can tell you that IMO not one of the current corps men has the raw talent of Daniil Simkin. They have OTHER talents, and hopefully they will continue to develop but McKenzie would have been crazy to let Simkin get away - whether or not he ultimately works out at ABT and regardless of the effect it has on the morale of the corps. Ditto Joseph Philips & Mikhail Ilyin.

Ballet is not a democracy, and not for the faint hearted. Each dancer develops at their own pace but hard work + dedication simply do not guarantee success. Any dancer who doesn't feel they are getting enough opportunities with ABT (or any other company) needs to find another job. It's worked well recently for Carlos Molino, Erica Cornejo and Melissa Barak, and despite the fact that I will miss one of my favorite dancers terribly I truly think Veronika Part's decision to leave is the right one.

I also agree with Faux Pas that McKenzie does a great job developing male talent but is severely deficient in developing ballerinas. In fact I am even more down on ABT's female principal dancers than he is, but that's for another day…

As much as i admire several of the members of the male corp,i agree with Susan that there is no one with the raw talent of Daniil.My only concern is his height. He seems very small in his pictures but apparently he seems more than capable in his partnering skills.
As for future ballerinas,maybe Kevin will surprise us again. Is Marcelo/David tall enough for the "Big Red".

#36 Solnishka79

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 11:38 AM

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


If she joined ABT, I'd become a season subscriber.

#37 oyoyoyoyoy

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 11:57 AM

This may be off topic so feel free to remove.

A company such as ABT cannot exist with only soloists and principals, you must have a corps de ballet. And it seems no one is addressing that issue. It is a shame to hire soloist level dancers, for the coprs, who think they will move up the ranks when that is not going to happen. They become very unhappy and sometimes "incompetent" corps dancers.

I know it would be difficult, but it would be great if a director could say to a dancer, "I am hiring you as a corps dancer and I don't see you moving beyond that, but the company needs YOU." Dancing in the corps of a great company is a wonderful experience. And a great company needs a wonderful corps. I believe that future repetiteurs, ballet masters, teachers, etc. are more likely to come from corps dancers. By the way, what is happening with the memorial fund for Jennifer Alexander which is to honor a senior corps member? I can't find any info about it.

So many young dancers are participating in these competitions and it is becoming apparent that directors are drawing from these competition winners rather than their own schools for employees. Many young dancers today seem to feel that being in the corps is beneath them; or, simply, they are not interested in being in the corps - they woudl rather not dance if they cannot be a "star."

#38 Marga

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 02:19 PM

What about Erica Cornejo? She is exceptionally talented, however, she left to go to Boston because of the lack of roles for her. I mean, Boston is an excellent company but still...

Erica Cornejo left ABT for Boston primarily, I believe, because she married Boston Ballet principal Carlos Molina.

#39 atm711

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 02:22 PM

did Igor Youskevitch or Alicia Alonso work their way up through the corps at ABT?

quoted from NYSusan


Igor Youskevitch was a premier danseur with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1938 to 1944. He joined Ballet Theatre in 1946, and not in the Corps :helpsmilie: . Alicia Alonso was a soloist with Ballet Caravan from 1939-l940, soloist with Ballet Theatre in 1941; ballerina since 1943.

#40 vipa

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 03:00 PM

I don't think anyone would argue against Lucia Chase's hiring of Baryshnikov in 1974. (It did work against Kivitt but then he was already a principal of six-years standing at the time. Bad luck on his part.)


I agree that no one would argue against the hiring of Baryshnikov but it did have an impact, I believe, on Fernando Bujones. The fact that Bujones won Varna got a bit lost in the shuffle, and perhaps the publicity and attention received by Baryshnikov somewhat took the spot light off of Fernando.

I'm not trying to compare their respective talents, just trying to make the point that even a good decision made by a director can have some unintended negative consequences.

#41 Helene

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 06:58 PM

There will never be a shortage of dancers who are willing to be in the ABT corps. There are hundreds of kids graduating from pre-professional programs in the US each year and dancers from the rest of the world who want to work in NYC.

The older corps dancers are the ones making the largest salaries, and almost all dancers are on year-to-year contracts. From a financial standpoint, it makes sense to not renew the contracts of older, more expensive corps dancers, and to hire younger dancers out of school. Younger dancers may not have the experience, but they are often eager to make their mark.

No one forced any of the former principal dancers and soloists who took ABT corps contracts to do so. If they had the clout to join as soloists and principals, they would have, but they made the trade-off. That never guarantees that someone won't be hired directly into the company at higher levels, especially a company like ABT which has a history of doing so, and it doesn't guarantee that a younger dancer won't leap-frog over them from the corps, although ABT does not have a history of doing this. (NYCB does.)

#42 Memo

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Posted 02 May 2008 - 08:04 PM

I think this topic is moving away from Danill Simkun and I for one look forward to seeing him dance. I don't think Keven McKenzie has slighted anyone by hiring him. It just pains me to see talented dancers sitting for years and not getting an opportunity to dance. That is however "the breaks" but there are human beings and artists on the other side of those breaks and time and time again I have seen ABT create an illusion of loyalty. With acceptance to their summer programs, National Training Scholarships and the ABT II. I see dancers will feel an obligation to them to continue with the veil of a promise of advancing through the ranks. The reality is that the director is going to hire the best dancers that they can find for their company. All dancers pre pro and professional must be mindful of this and get the best training they can get that best suits them, and then find the position with the company that respects their talent and gives them opportunities to dance, and if its not working......get out. The problem there is that the market is very tight this year and jobs are sparse.
I am thoroughly enjoying this thread. Lots of great opinions and thoughts. Thanks to all.

#43 miliosr

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 04:20 AM

If (as several posters maintain) that there isn't a single guy in the ABT corps worth promoting to soloist status, then it begs several questions:

1) What is going on either at the audition level or at the corps mentoring level that ABT is unable to find suitable candidates for promotion from within, and

2) if (as Helene notes) "there will never be a shortage of dancers who are willing to be in the ABT corps", then (as Memo notes) what is the point of the school/summer programs/scholarships/ABT II? If the end result is that the beneficiaries/graduates of these programs/entities dead end in the corps, then why bother? Why not scrap the programs, take the money and become the New York Yankees of the ballet world -- go forth and start waving money under dancers' noses in London and Paris and Copenhagen and St. Petersburg and Moscow and create a 70s-style all-star roster of principals and soloists who will pack the Met and get the fan base hooting and hollering and shredding their programs.

I apologize if it seems like I am being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. My quarrel isn't with Mr. Simkin, who I am sure is the greatest thing since Grape Crush soda (my favorite). What I'm annoyed about is that ABT wants it both ways. They want to be mentioned in the same breath as the French and the Danes and the Russians and the City Ballet-ers so they've created this whole apparatus of a school and summer programs and scholarships and ABT II to create the impression of school-to-corps-to-soloist-to-principal just like all the others. But then they also want to have an array of larger-than-life personalities on stage and so they defy their own internal apparatus and go out and hire dancers from the outside.

To me, ABT is a company that doesn't know what it wants to be. Personally, I think that whole 70s-style/Lucia Chase/"can't have enough stars" approach is their true DNA and they should just embrace it and stop trying to please people who carp about the absence of a "company style". But I wish they would just pick one direction and stick with it rather than the current muddle which (if this thread is any indication) only divides the fan base.

(And thanks to vipa for mentioning Bujones. I had forgotten that he, like Ted Kivitt, got the downside of the Baryshnikov hiring. Curiously, I think Lucia Chase's hiring/treatment of Bujones was correct -- he won at Varna but he started in the corps, became a soloist the next year and became a principal the year after that.)

Blaine Hoven 4 Ever! :helpsmilie:

#44 its the mom

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 06:18 AM

A couple of thoughts mostly after talking with my own dancing kids. First, Simkin has had the benefit of coming from a dancing family. From the moment he was born, I am sure he was in the ballet studio and at the theatre. He has had the benefit of one on one coaching with his mother. I believe he has proven himself not only in competitions, but in full-length ballets as well. DS heard that his debut in Don Q with Lithuanian Opera Ballet was amazing. It will remain to be seen how well he does without the benefit of coaching from his parents. I don't know how ABT works, but I do know in many other American companies, there can sometimes be very little rehearsal time for a role. It's essentially - learn it and perform it. I do think he has what it takes to rise to the occasion.

DS says that the guys of ABT are very lucky to have someone like Simkin around. He will not only inspire them, he will raise the level of dancing. He is also very willing to share and help others. It's the kind of guy he is.

I think McKenzie is wise. Why can't he have both - the hired star and those that come up from within? He is creating another "dream team," in my opinion. He's now got Simkin as a soloist, Joseph Phillips (another extremely hard worker) in the corps, and Gorak and Isaac Hernandez (another born to dance kid) cooking in ABT II and sure to enter the corps soon. Along with several of the other corps members mentioned - Hoven, Tommy Forester, Alex Hammoudi, Stappas etc., he's got the makings of a great principal/soloist line-up.

This type of hiring is happening everywhere. Someone mentioned Vilella's hires in Miami. Tomasson does the same thing. As mentioned on these boards recently, he just hired the three Cuban defectors as soloists. One of them, Taras Domitro, is only 21. He hired Nutnaree right out of Royal Ballet School as a soloist. Directors see star potential and they want it. Yes, it does make it hard on those sitting waiting in the corps de ballet waiting their turn. But this is what a dancer must decide. Do I sit in the big company in the corps de ballet or do I go to a smaller company and get the chance to dance bigger roles?

#45 Haglund's

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Posted 03 May 2008 - 06:47 AM

Corella came in as a soloist and one benefit was that other dancers picked up their games and took their dancing to higher levels. Adding Simkin who appears to be one of those 1 in 100,000 talents could be just the infusion the company needs. Right now, the men in the corps and soloist positions are very, very good with flashes of brilliance. Many would dance as principals in other major American companies. Those men of the recent generation, such as Askegard, Molina and DeLuz, who left to become principals with other companies did so because they were not going to rise to the level of principal at ABT for some very clear and grounded reasons. It's great that they found opportunities elsewhere, but I don't regret that ABT didn't make them principals. If Simkin comes in and kicks "a" in the performance and technical areas, that will be a positive influence on dancers like Hoven, Stappas, Radetsky, Jared Matthews and Salstein and help drive them to a new level.


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