American Ballet Theatre soloist Simone Messmer talks about her decision to leave

Simone Messmer discusses her decision to leave American Ballet Theatre for San Francisco Ballet



Add +

Time Out New York: But when you joined, the company was different. How did it change?
Simone Messmer:
How do you explain Nina? How do you explain Alex? And Julio [Bocca]? They used to invite me to warm up with them backstage before their shows, because they knew I was going to warm up anyway, and they knew I took Willy’s class. Now everybody’s out for their own, and you can’t fault them because that’s the way things are going these days, but they used to put the effort into that—into knowing the company and in showing the company how they do it and what they do to get there. And you know, Irina and Max, always… [Irina Dvorovenko and Maxim Beloserkovsky]. When people started getting injured my second or third year in the company, they were the ones that went in the office and said, “Simone can do the pas de trois” [in Swan Lake].

Time Out New York: Really?
Simone Messmer:
Sure. And they would come up to me: “Why don’t you ask for this? Why don’t you do this?” Yes, they knew what they wanted for themselves, but they never forgot there was a company behind them and dancers coming up and that everything is temporary. You can’t just hold on—it’s just not the way to approach it. I just want better. I don’t want this to come across like I’m speaking ill of the people that are dancing, because everyone does the best they can. I don’t want to be the same at 16 as 35. You are doing a disservice to your dancers if they end up like that. It’s not okay. We’re taught not to think. Or I just think it’s par for the course when you join at 16: You don’t have to think. I made a real effort to not compromise in my career and that’s all I can do. All of this happened—I spent my last week off in San Fran, came back, had a week of rehearsal and went to the Kennedy Center. We went right into the Met. I’m just trying to really experience it and make sure that I’m behaving and presenting myself the way I want to be seen, and I think something has sort of occurred with my dancing. I feel like I’m dancing well, and I feel like I’m dancing freer. It makes me happy, and it also confirms that it’s time for me to go. If I’ve gotten to the point where I’m clearly growing in who I am onstage, then I need to be growing with different roles. That’s it. That’s the base. No fault lies in anything, but that is a fact. So my first shows with San Francisco are going to be in New York.

Time Out New York: I love that. I thought that I would approach you for an interview then, but was really so pleased when you contacted me for this talk.
Simone Messmer:
If what you’re doing is just what you’re doing and there is no ulterior motive, the rapport with the press, the fans, your friends—there is nothing wrong with saying these things. You don’t mean any evil; you don’t have any ulterior motives: This is the story, and I have one. I’ve been here for 12 years. I’ve gone through a lot with ABT. And unfortunately, this is what it’s come to.

Time Out New York: Or fortunately?
Simone Messmer:
Yeah. I’m really excited to start. I like the community there; it seems very great. Everyone’s very hungry to work. That’s good!

Time Out New York: Did you find an apartment?
Simone Messmer:

Time Out New York: Is it nice? 
Simone Messmer:
I don’t know. I haven’t seen it. We’re doing this all over Craigslist and through my boyfriend’s cousin. She went to, like, six open houses. My boyfriend is moving with me. He was ABT’s head carpenter. He’s done all the dirty work. He’s getting all of our belongings there. He found the apartment.

Time Out New York: That’s great.
Simone Messmer:
We have very similar moral compasses, I think. That makes a relationship much easier because you don’t have to explain why. And he was with ABT last season, so he was backstage for my Gamzatti [in La Bayadère]. He has no idea what he’s looking at, so he had Craig Salstein stand right next to him and be like, “Tell me how she’s doing.” [Laughs] And he was there for Firebird. That instigated a lot of why I left, I think. We were doing Giselle. I did Myrtha, Gamzatti, Firebird—amazing things—and then nothing. So I don’t know what to say about that. There’s not the value put into my role in Firebird that there is in Swan Lake. That was such a great—[Alexei] trusted me so much for that role and the rapport between the other maidens and me…we were in it. It was 100 percent and it was Marcelo [Gomes], David [Hallberg] and me. It was such a dream team and then to be shot down and treated like you’re not one of them?

Time Out New York: Not good. 
Simone Messmer:
No. Not good for morale around the company, not good at all. What does that say about what you did? It’s just so hurtful.

Time Out New York: Are the younger dancers upset you’re leaving?
Simone Messmer:
You never know until a person’s gone. But I hope I’ve set a good example, and there’s a part of me that hopes I’ll be missed. You know what I mean? But it’s ABT. There’s always another dancer behind me, there’s always somebody that’s going to fill a spot. Life goes on. But I do think I’ve left something—a little morsel that people can hold on to.

Time Out New York: Do you know what you’re dancing in San Francisco? 
Simone Messmer:
No. There’s good rep and there’s also a lot of new choreographers. I don’t think anyone really knows what they’re doing because Helgi definitely said, “I do not put input into who these choreographers choose.”

You might also like

Users say

jerry eaderesto
jerry eaderesto

Simone is a great gift to the entire ballet community. Her sublime and incredibly versatile artistry has been a thrill to behold. San Francisco is gaining a great ballerina. I eagerly look forward to her return.


It is a shame that ABT doesn't promote more from within - I think all would agree that Stella Abrera should have been promoted to principal years ago. Ms. Messmer has impressed me as a dancer who considers herself above the fray. Perhaps she thinks that audiences and patrons are blessed to be able to see her dance. I am glad that she is leaving and I hope she learns something in San Francisco.


The ballet world and its politics are as interesting as the politics involved in any other industry or organization. Complicated because one is evaluated on talent which can be so hard to pin down and is so much opinion without a clear set of measurable standards. The careers of dancers are short-lived comapared to many other careers. Like the athletes they are, dancers like sports athletes have a peak in their careers and are subject to quick falls especially if injured. She has made the smart and inevitable decisions to do what is best for her.

Dance events calendar

  1. Bank of America...

    Not only is there free ice-skating on Bryant Park'...

  2. Union Square...

    If there’s one alfresco shopping event worth bravi...

  3. Radio City...

    You'll get a kick out of this holiday stalwart, wh...

193 more events »


Subscribe to Time Out New York on Spotify for playlists and recommendations from our Music team.

Check out New York's best restaurants, hottest street style, cool apartments and more.