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ICB showcases rising young ballet dancers

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The amazing Danill Simpkin returns to Indianapolis for both performances. - PHOTO BY GENE SCHIAVONE.
  • Photo by Gene Schiavone.
  • The amazing Danill Simpkin returns to Indianapolis for both performances.

On Saturday, Sept. 10, the Indianapolis City Ballet will present its third annual Evening with the Stars gala, featuring performances by soloists and principal dancers from major companies nationwide. However, this year's festivities feature an added attraction on Sept. 9 – the Young Stars of Ballet.

"The performers on the Young Stars of Ballet program include stars of today and tomorrow," explained Kevin Hesse, producer/executive director of the Indianapolis City Ballet. "They are medal winners from international competitions along with principal dancers and soloists from American Ballet Theater." The program also includes members of the New York City Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, ABT, Boston Ballet, and the Marinsky Ballet.

The Young Stars of Ballet will showcase plenty of local talent.

"We are very pleased and honored to have three emerging Indianapolis-based talents among the event's soloists — Chris Lingner, Hannah Sink and Demitra Bereveskos," explained Hesse.

The evening will feature 105 area dancers from local schools in the Grand Defile, choreographed by Carlos Dos Santos. Hesse describes the work as a spectacle marked by a flurry of precise choreography, quick transitions, humor and virtuosity.

Hesse, along with Jolinda Menendez, the event's performance director, selected the Young Stars of Ballet artists in consultation with several ballet greats. Contributors included Franco DeVita, Principal of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Ballet and Gailene Stock, Director of The Royal Ballet School.

This year's Evening with the Stars is themed as "International Stars of the American Ballet," and includes soloists and principal dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. Also appearing are Guillaume Coté, guest artist in residence of the National Ballet of Canada, and Conrad Tao, pianist at Julliard School of Music.

"In preparation to launch our residency company with performances next September, we focused on the dance scene in America and found a great mix of American and foreign dancers at the top of the international world of ballet, and have been fortunate to pull together a stunning program from classical to contemporary," said Hesse.

"In fact," he added, "we've got some of the hottest contemporary choreographers on the program this year, including ... a new commission from Margo Sappington with music by Michael Jackson, which will be on both the Friday and Saturday performances and has a great contemporary look."

Simkin to headline both performances

Danill Simkin, who thrilled last year's audience with his signature solo "Les Bourgeois," returns to headline both Friday and Saturday events.

Simkin was born in Russia to a ballet family. Simkin made his stage debut at the age of six, often dancing alongside his father Dimitrij Simkin. At age 12, Simkin began participating in ballet competitions and galas around the world.

Simkin went on to win several international competitions before dancing his first principal role with the Lithuanian National Opera in 2007.In 2008, he joined the American Ballet Theatre as a Soloist.His technical virtuosity is well matched by his endearing personality, which immediately connects him with the audience.

Simkin's awards include the 2006 Senior Gold Medal at the USA International Ballet Competition, and First Prize/Gold Medal at the 2004 International Ballet Competition in Varna. In 2006, he joined the ballet company of the Vienna State Opera as a demi-soloist. In 2007, he danced his first principal role as Basilio in Don Quixote, as a guest with the Lithuanian National Opera.

Hesse underscores Simkin's commitment to people. "When I mentioned the Young Stars program to Daniil he graciously and excitedly joined the program – telling me, 'I'm happy to do it for the kids.'"

Joining Simkin are returning performers Marcelo Gomes (ABT), Damian Smith, and Yuan Yuan Tan (San Francisco Ballet).

Growing the dance community

Kevin Hesse emphasized that this weekend of dance aims to acknowledge the importance of teachers in the development of an artist. In light of the occasion, the ICB will honor Master Teacher David Howard.

Howard is celebrating his 45th year of teaching in America. Born and educated in England, Howard earned his first major role as a principal dancer at London's famed Palladium Theatre, where he had the honor of appearing in a Royal Command Performance before Queen Elizabeth II. Howard was a soloist for Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet (now The Royal Ballet) and also danced with the National Ballet of Canada.

In 1966, Howard joined the faculty of the Harkness Ballet School in New York City. In 1977, Howard opened his own school adjacent to Lincoln Center. His classes have played an integral role in the professional training of many notable dancers.

"We have a relatively diverse audience [in Indianapolis] and we would like to engage and entertain while deepening their knowledge and curiosity of the entire art form of ballet," said Hesse. "I think the Young Stars program is especially valuable as it gives young audience members a chance to see their contemporaries flourish — hopefully imparting inspiration."

Said Hesse, "Indianapolis City Ballet is committed to developing a robust outreach program that engages audiences of all ages, including providing education materials about the ballet.

"In the end," Hesse concluded, "we continue to work as a relatively new member of the dance community of Indianapolis, seeking to grow the community and provide unique opportunities for dancers and audience members alike."

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