By Walter Rutledge
Daniil Simkin’s Intensio had their inaugural New York City season January 5 through January 10 at the Joyce Theater. Simkin presented a stylistically diverse audience friendly program, featuring four works by four internationally recognized choreographers. The company of nine highly trained professionals performed with impressive technical prowess that was only surpassed by the high level of artistry.
The program opened with Jorma Elo’s trio Nocturne/Etude/Prelude featuring Danili Simkin, Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside; with live piano accompaniment by David Friend. Boylston danced with exceptional assuredness, combining quirky circular arm movements with impeccable line and a crystalline attack. The work faired better when the choreography broke from the classical/ballet conventions of arabesque, attitude and pirouette and allowed the performers to just dance. Elo captured the mood and temperament of each section and the clean bright lighting complimented the choreography and the performers.
Welcome A Stranger by Gregory Dolbashian set to a music collage (including mixes by Dolbashian) presented a quintet featuring Celine Cassone, Blaine Hoven, Alexandre Hammond, Calvin Royal III, and Cassandra Trenary. The dark and introspective contemporary ballet was the only work set off pointe, which gave the dancers an opportunity to work through a more grounded center of gravity. Designed in three sections, the work was an excellent vehicle for guest artist Celine Cassone; whose fiery red hair matched her onstage temperament.
Simkin and the City, an amusing short film by Alexander Ekman, had Simkin dancing through Manhattan en route to the Metropolitan Opera House in Lincoln Center. Dressed in princely attire consisting white tights, ballet slippers and a white jeweled tunic; the farce drew laughter from the audience as Simkin entertained passers-by and a barking dog (it’s amazing how much New Yorkers and their pets take for granted). He finally arrives at the Met only to find the front doors locked.
The second part Simkin and the Stage featured home movie footage of a young Simkin (starting at age nine) receiving dance class from his mother in their apartment. The serious, almost stoic child with the page-boy haircut looked more duty-bound than joyous. The adult Simkin danced onstage to a combination of music and a recorded narrative of his own voice. Throughout the work Simkin’s narration directed his dancing autobiography ranging from comedic to poignant.
The final work Island Of Memories by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa began with Simkin lying on the stage while an ocean of whirling light slowly rolled across the stage like an ebbing high tide. Lighting designer Dmitrij Simkin (Daniil’s father) using infrared sensors to track the heat of the dancer’s footwork illuminating the performers’ path with every step. Set to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons the full ensemble work lived up to Daniil Simkin’s objective of marrying dance and technology.
The simple, but effective stage set consisting of rectangular mirrors suspended above the stage provided another visual perspective to the work; creating the illusion of viewing the dance from the orchestra and balcony simultaneously. The duel perspective revealed the choreographer’s visual intent and the pattern work/stagecraft from above. American Ballet Theatre dancer Hee Seo performed with notable abandon especially in the duet with fellow ABT member Calvin Royal III.
Daniil Simkin’s Intensio bridges the artistic gap between traditional and contemporary ballet; and the company accomplishes this goal without sacrificing artistic integrity. The company made its first leap into the New York City dance arena offering good form and a lot of fun. Simkin embraces the idea that dance, especially ballet, can be innovative and entertaining.
1) Isabella Boylston and Alexandre Hammoudi – Image by Paula Lobo
2) Daniil Simkin – Image by Yi-Chun Wu
3) Céline Cassone and Calvin Royal III – Image by Paula Lobo