Daniil Simkin Begins A Pivot From Dancing Ballet To Filming It

Daniil Simkin has always been curious and forward-thinking about how dance can utilize digital platforms. The international guest artist and former American Ballet Theatre and Staatsballett Berlin principal was an early adopter of social media and YouTube (who can forget 2013’s “Simkin and the City”?). His later independent projects, like 2015’s INTENSIO at The Joyce Theater and 2017’s Falls the Shadow, a site-specific dance installation presented by Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum, incorporated film-projection design.

On June 25, his production company, Studio Simkin, unveiled one, a seven-minute dance film produced by (and starring) Simkin and choreographed by David Dawson. Shot during the pandemic in April 2021, one represents both a labor of love and where Simkin would like to see his career go eventually.

“This project made it clear that I want to be a producer and that I want to create,” he said in an interview last year, a few days before a private screening in New York City. In 2021, he launched Studio Simkin, with the aim of creating collaborative dance experiences (across multimedia and various distribution platforms) and commercial projects. One of its first productions, CAVE: Convergence, Part One—a nightclub-inspired work choreographed by Hofesh Shechter and performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company—premiered in 2022 at New York City Center.

Daniil Simkin in one. Photo courtesy Studio Simkin.

One is more intimate, reflecting a dancer’s anxiety in the midst of isolation, uncertainty, and change before finding solace in his art. Dancing within a red-orange haze (sci-fi movies like Dune and The Matrix served as aesthetic inspiration), Simkin spirals, spins, and slices through the atmosphere at warp speed to Peter Gregson’s driving score, finding introspection during moments of sustained adagio. The extraordinary camerawork follows Simkin from multiple angles—close up, far away, from above—with a dancer’s eye to line and movement.

Simkin first met with Dawson to discuss working together in April of 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was shutting down theaters worldwide. Without a stage to perform on, they shifted to the idea of a dance film. “We wanted to create something special, in a sense that it’s not ‘recorded dance’ as it usually is,” Simkin said. Simkin, then 33, also felt he was nearing the peak of his physical ability as a classical dancer. “I wanted to make something lasting that I can look back upon, especially since our careers are so short.”

He tapped frequent collaborators Caspar Hees and Matthäus Bussmann, of the online training platform Dance Masterclass, as filmmakers. Simkin said Dawson gave the team complete freedom in realizing his choreography on film. “With film you have the power to move the point of perception, so you can optimize lines and create a much more empathetic experience,” said Simkin. “At one point [in one] I look into the camera, into the gaze of the viewer, which is not really possible onstage because you project out.”

The film’s seven-minute length was a deliberate choice for today’s distracted, media-saturated times: “People don’t have the attention span,” he said. “Two minutes is a music video; seven minutes demands a little more attention, but it’s bearable, even for the layman.” He hopes it also serves as a great, bite-sized introduction for audiences new to ballet.

Simkin has other projects on the horizon, although it’s still too early to talk about them. Of course, running a nascent production company alongside his international performance schedule can be challenging, especially as he tries to secure funding to make Studio Simkin self-sustainable. For now he relies on an international team, sponsorships from brands like Harlequin (which donated the film’s red flooring), and guidance from mentors like Sharon Patrick, his sponsor from ABT who now serves as his strategic advisor.

“I’m still in the good years of my classical career, so it’s becoming increasingly difficult to prioritize,” said Simkin, who has summer engagements in Italy and Japan and will be performing in New York City, Mongolia, and Athens this September. “At the same time, I am growing increasingly passionate about my future and Studio Simkin…I truly feel like we have something meaningful here.”

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top