American Ballet Theatre principal Daniil Simkin has a lot on his plate. Not only has he been dancing in and rehearsing for ABT's spring season, he's also spearheading his own brand-new project, INTENSIO, which will premiere at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts, July 22–26.
Simkin, who both directs and dances in INTENSIO, has created an international all-star cast of choreographers and dancers. The project features new work by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Alexander Ekman, Gregory Dolbashian and Boston Ballet's resident choreographer Jorma Elo. Fellow ABT principals Hee Seo, James Whiteside and Isabella Boylston will perform, along with Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal star Céline Cassone. "I've organized simple gala performances before," says Simkin, "but this project is on another artistic level. It's so big that I couldn't immediately grasp the whole thing. But I enjoy a challenge."
Simkin, who grew up in Europe watching choreography by Mats Ek, Jirí Kylián and William Forsythe, wanted to create an evening of work that celebrated a European aesthetic while still feeling contemporary and new. "I'd had this idea floating around for about six years," he says. "But I finally met the right people at the Joyce Theater and Sunny Artist Management who could help me make it happen."
His intention, in choosing dancers and structuring the program, was to assemble a group who would complement one another. "While Alexander has a penchant for theatricality and humor, Jorma focuses on the musicality of neoclassical movement. Greg works in a completely different contemporary style inspired partly by hip hop and break dancing. And Annabelle has a natural flow and wholeness to her vision. I want to show the different directions our artistic extension can go."