Cyber Dancer

Culture » Art & Design » Cyber Dancer

Daniil Simkin at ABT’s studios in New York.

Cyber Dancer

Few dancers can boast of a bigger following online than in the theater, but Daniil Simkin can. As fluent in Twitter as he is in Russian, German and English, the Siberian-born wunderkind, 21, hopes to demystify the world of ballet for a new generation. Five years ago he created his own Web site (daniilsimkin.com) and began posting clips of his bravura turns in international competitions; one video of a 2006 solo racked up nearly half a million views. Now, as American Ballet Theatre’s newest male star, he regularly tweets about his life onstage and off. “People see me dancing online and send me e-mails,” he says, plunking down his iPhone next to his turkey sandwich at ABT’s studios. “I want to get as close to them as possible and not be this mystic creature.”

There is plenty that’s otherworldly about Simkin’s dancing, however—from his space-spanning leaps to his virtuosic aplomb. “In his face and concentration I see Misha [Baryshnikov],” says ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie, who hired Simkin as a soloist last spring, “but he also has the exuberant youth of Angel [Corella].” A former demi-soloist with the Vienna State Opera Ballet, Simkin was raised in Wiesbaden, Germany, by ballet-dancer parents (the family left Novosibirsk, Russia, in 1990). Rather than send her son to an academy, Simkin’s mother privately trained him after school—two hours daily, for 10 years. “Where most parents would be fascinated by what their kids are doing and say, ‘Ah! It’s so beautiful!,’ I would always hear, ‘Ah, this is wrong. It could be better,’” he says. Calling his mother “my coach and psychotherapist,” Simkin, now a New Yorker, says they still speak daily, and he proudly shows off the striped unitard that she hand-knit for him with “lahve.”

Though only five feet seven, Simkin has long proportions and plenty of debuts ahead, among them roles in Romeo and Juliet and La Sylphide. Already he’s aspiring to blend the best of his boyhood idols. “I would drop in the technique of Baryshnikov, the charisma of Nureyev and the work ethic of my father,” he says. “Mix together, and you’d have the perfect dancer!”