Daniil Simkin in ABT Don Quixote: Tricks, Tricks, and More Tricks

Daniil Simkin’s aerial circus came to town Thursday in American Ballet Theatre’s Don Quixote. The Petipa ballet has a paper-thin plot, so the ballet demands a high level of individual achievement to make it worthwhile. Fortunately, it was tricks, tricks, and more tricks from amazing Daniil. He easily does what most dancers would consider impossible and more than a few times I wondered when he took off for some bizarre leap: “What was that?” He exuded confidence and cocky bravado from his entrance in Act I, in which he gave a hammy, knowing grin to the audience (check out my curtain call photos at notmydayjobphotography.com).

His turns are very interesting with his extreme wide arm carriage, out to his sides when he starts his turns, narrowing as he completes his amazing 6-9 rotations. Take a look at my Balletfocus video dictionary below for pirouettes at 4:22. This shows the great force that Daniil puts into his turns, winding up dramatically in fifth position. His arms are in second position (at his sides) when he starts his turns and pulls them toward his body as his turns progress. Not the form that dance teachers generally approve of when they tell students that two pirouettes are enough, as the guys roll their eyes. Controlling all of this energy is difficult; one small imperfection would lead to disaster. Somehow, Daniil is able to consistently channel all of his energy and wind the turns down to a stop after many rotations.

Thursday, Daniil did 8-9 turns in Act I, but altered his leg position after about five turns. The first five turns were in a traditional retiré position but he shifted into a fouetté while on relevé to a turned in retiré position. Never seen that before. Daniil’s Act III solo was the same as in his entertaining Instagram post shown below in rehearsal with not much variation in quality. His solo was the standard Don Quixote version, but done in a nonstandard manner. Check out his great control, with no wavering or wasted movements. His first turn section consists of six pirouettes to three turns in arabesque followed by seven turns. His diagonal of double tours to arabesque is done with exquisite control, particularly the second time. Daniil finishes with seven pirouettes to a double tour to the knee in dramatic fashion. Very similar in form and substance to what he did Thursday.

Add to Daniil’s bag of tricks were his three outrageous 540s at the end of his second solo. This trick, taken from the Korean martial arts tornado kick of the 1980s, is difficult to explain as much is going on in about a half of a second. Take a look at my video below, which shows Daniil in slow motion and stop action in Le Corsaire. In addition, he threw in a triple saute de basque along a diagonal in Act II. The only trick that he didn’t do was pirouettes to a double tour off one leg. Truly a special talent in a top-notch performance.

Isabella Boylston did a great job of keeping up with her phenomenal Basilio. She blazed through her difficult sections with great focus including a nice single turn in first position diagonal in Act I, ronde de jamb hops on pointe in Act II, and an energetic fouetté sequence filled with double and a few triple pirouettes with hands on her hips. The partnering sections were fine, although Daniil struggled on some of the lifts. His dramatic one arm lifts were done well but with great effort. Partnering is not his strong suit.

The ABT performance was strong overall. Skylar Brandt as Amor showed substantial spunk with rapid bourées and breakneck chaîné turns. Hopefully she will graduate soon to Kitri as she is ready for the lead role. I enjoyed Katherine Williams as the Queen of the Dryads as she displayed nice, controlled extensions, although her Italian fouettés were of a forced quality. Blaine Hoven as Espada the matador was in fine form, paired with Zhong-Jing Fang as Mercedes. Catherine Hurlin and Cassandra Trenary were the Flower Girls, also danced with precision.