Does Daniil Simkin Ever Slow Down?

Daniil Simkin with Céline Cassone. Photo by NYC Dance Project: Ken Browar and Deborah Ory. Courtesy Joyce Theater.

Vacation may seem like an unknown concept to American Ballet Theatre principal Daniil Simkin. Instead of resting during ABT's winter layoff, he gathered some fellow company members, plus Céline Cassone of Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, to perform in his fledgling dance venture, INTENSIO. The program of four premieres makes its New York debut at the Joyce Theater now through Jan. 10. For Pointe's biweekly newsletter, we spoke with Simkin about the experience.

 

Why did you create INTENSIO?

I wanted to explore the more European side of contemporary ballet. That's why we picked choreographers with a more European aesthetic: Jorma Elo, Alexander Ekman and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The only American is Gregory Dolbashian, but he mashes hip hop and contemporary. I also wanted my friends at ABT to have work created on them. For any dancer, that's a dream.

 

What does "INTENSIO" mean? 

It's an analogism to reflect the words "intention" and "intensity." On the one hand, we had an intention for the evening. And on the other, it should be an intense experience.

 

The show includes innovative technology. Why did you want to explore this?

These days, we're so saturated with media and the internet. The projections add another layer to the dance, and I think it's my duty to explore those possibilities. Basically, there is an infrared camera on top of the stage which picks up the dancers' silhouettes, and a real-time projection is thrown back at the floor to amplify their movements. It makes a dynamic environment.

 

How do you juggle all this with your schedule at ABT?

I'm just organized. I have no other choice but to be! I grew up in Germany where life is very structured. I went to a regular high school and had ballet on the side, so even then my brain was divided. Now, doing different things grounds me and keeps me from overthinking any part of my life.

 

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