A Conversation with Ballet Dancer Daniil Simkin

Simkin with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal dancer Céline Cassone

At 27, Daniil Simkin is shaping up to be the next Renaissance man of the dance world. He’s a principal with American Ballet Theatre; he’s producing—and dancing in—the repertory project INTENSIO, which premieres four new contemporary ballet works at Jacob’s Pillow this month; and he has thousands of followers across multiple social-media platforms.

His social-media stardom is the result of early adoption—so early that both his Twitter and Instagram handles are just his first name, @daniil—and thoughtful curation of his dance life in images, video and quips. His INTENSIO premiere promises to be just as carefully cultivated, with stellar casting selected from his ABT colleagues and an eclectic roster of choreographers.

His Instagram bio “Trying very hard to be artsy, badass and not obnoxious at the same time.”

Having his mom as his private teacher “On one side, my education was very compact and efficient because I had the full attention of my teacher. I never worked more than two hours a day—it was never the full days you have in ballet school. On the other hand, working with your mom sometimes tends to be difficult. You say things to your mother that you would not say to an outside person. It either brings you together or drives you apart. I was lucky: Our personalities fit.”

The idea behind INTENSIO “I’ve done my fair share of galas. They can be spectacular, but from an artistic point of view, they aren’t the most fulfilling. I wanted to create something fresh, something that asks questions: Where are dance and ballet going? Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s piece will include video projection, created on the spot, depending on where the dancers are and what their shapes are. In Jorma Elo’s, two piano pieces will be played live onstage. Greg Dolbashian’s piece will be danced in socks—no pointe shoes, no ballet slippers—so it’s outside the comfort zone of our dancers. Alexander Ekman’s is completely contemporary, and it’s autobiographical.” DT

Training: under the direction of his mother Olga Aleksandrova, former principal with Novosibirsk State Opera in Russia

Performance: Vienna State Opera; Lithuanian National Opera; joined American Ballet Theatre in 2008 and promoted to principal in 2012

Social media: 46,000 likes on Facebook; 44,000 Instagram followers; 14,000 Twitter followers; hundreds of thousands of YouTube views

Photo by NYC Dance Project, courtesy of Simkin

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