After a short illness, yesterday, Tuesday December 29, Simon André Zijlmans (The Hague, 1942) died, former principal soloist of the Dutch National Ballet. Simon André, as his stage name was, was in 1956 part of the first batch of students of the dance training course at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, at the time led by the British Valerie Adams. After his training he joined the Dutch Ballet, which became part of the Dutch National Ballet in 1961 and to which Simon would remain associated until 1971.
Already in 1962, after a performance of Le prisonnier du Caucase, he was promoted to second soloist. His big breakthrough followed in 1963 with the Russian Concert Program, in which he danced with Panchita de Péri Melodie and with Olga de Haas the lyrical duet Moskovsky Valse. Simon and Olga became a steady and very successful dance couple, where Simon stood out for his virtuosity, talent for spinning and the fact that he was an excellent partner. Together they danced, among others, Giselle, Swan Lake, the Blue Bird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty and the second movement from Balanchine's Symphony in C. The Russian ballet masters and rehearsals Abdurachman Kumysnikov and Natalja Orlovskaya had a great influence on Simon's career.
In 1964 Simon married principal soloist Maria Koppers. Together they danced, among others, De Vuurvogel and Het Zwanenmeer. In 1965 Simon was promoted to principal soloist. Two years later he was the first Romeo in Rudi van Dantzig's famous version of Romeo and Juliet. In the 1968-1969 season, Simon was not only principal soloist but also assistant ballet master of Dutch National Ballet.
In 1971 he left the company to become a principal subject teacher of classical ballet at the Brabant Conservatory (now Fontys), where he later also became the artistic director of the higher vocational dance department and worked for more than twenty years. Simon was a very passionate and unconventional teacher and person. At the end of his career in dance, he made his own versions of Swan Lake for the ballet company in Belgrade and Giselle for the Greek National Ballet in the late 1990s.
Simon was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago. He leaves behind three children: Peter Koppers, who was associated with Dutch National Ballet from 1985 to 1988 and has worked as a ballet teacher ever since, and Roos and Alexander Zijlmans. We wish them a lot of strength with this great loss.
Photo: Ger J. van Leeuwen