Courtesy of Instagram/Doug Gifford

The New York City premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's sugary sweet story ballet, Whipped Cream, made for one of the most exciting spring galas at American Ballet Theatre yet. While we're usually in awe of the gowns the dancers sport on the red carpet beforehand, this time around, it was all about Whipped Cream's colorful and over-the-top costumes by Mark Ryden—and, okay, a few major dress moments, too. Ahead, check out what went on behind-the-scenes.


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Henry Leutwyler

David Hallberg almost quit dancing two years ago. The international ballet star, whose talent and drive had made him the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet as a principal dancer, was struggling after a 2014 ankle surgery to repair a frayed deltoid ligament. A resulting mass of scar tissue ultimately required a second surgery. Impingements and Achilles tendinopathy hounded him, making it nearly impossible to plié, as he pushed to get back into the studio.

Meanwhile, he was fielding promising offers to direct companies and curate festivals. Unsure of himself, the American Ballet Theatre principal sought advice from ABT artistic director Kevin McKenzie: Was it time to retire and move on to a leadership role, or was it worth giving his recovery another shot?

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2017 has started off with some fantastic news: David Hallberg is coming back to dance in the U.S.

American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that he'll be dancing with the company during its spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Hallberg, 34, hasn't performed with ABT since June 2014—and fans (including us) have been missing his princely presence ever since.

For two and a half years, an injured deltoid ligament in his ankle has kept him off stage both at ABT and the Bolshoi Ballet (where he holds the distinction of being the company's first American principal). It's been a major setback for such a talented dancer right at the peak of his career.

Hallberg in class yesterday, via nytimes.com

But Hallberg has literally gone to the ends of the earth to recover: He's spent the past year in Melbourne, following an intense physical therapy program designed by the Australian Ballet's dance medicine specialist Sue Mayes and her team (who are considered some of the best in the world at what they do). According to the Sydney Morning Herald, his regimen included two hours of strength training in the morning, followed by two hours of ballet, then resting with his feet in an ice bucket before two more hours of strength work. "One of the most off-the-wall things I've been doing is running up flights of stairs with a metronome in my pocket to make every step the exact same speed," he told the SMH reporter.

Although he added that he still has pain, and doesn't know if it will ever go away, he feels ready to dance again. Last month, he made a quiet comeback dancing Franz in Coppélia at the Australian Ballet.

So what will he perform with ABT? That hasn't been announced yet. He just started back in company class in New York yesterday. But a quick look at the casting lineup shows "TBA"s for the male lead in performances of Alexei Ratmansky's new Whipped Cream, plus Giselle and Onegin. Hallberg told Rosyln Sulcas of The New York Times that he was particularly excited to work with Ratmansky again, so Whipped Cream is probably a safe bet. We're keeping our fingers crossed he's healthy enough to perform much more than that this season—and for many more seasons to come.

 

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Let’s not get too excited, but next month ballet superstar David Hallberg returns to the stage. He’s been recuperating from an ankle injury in Australia, where he will start dancing again. The Australian Ballet, which has been helpful in his two-year recovery, asked him to perform the role of Franz in their scheduled run of Coppélia at Sydney Opera House, Dec. 13, 16, 19 and 21. It will be a debut for him, since he is more often cast as either a prince, a villain or in contemporary works at American Ballet Theatre.

Hallberg made history in 2011 as the first American to become a principal at the Bolshoi. Our June 2012 cover story sang his praises as a classical dance artist who’s not afraid to experiment. Commenting about the Bolshoi approach, he said, “It’s more open and, in essence, bigger. I’m so open to all of that because I want to get the most out of learning the Bolshoi technique.”

His view of dance goes beyond ballet. While living in New York, he often attended downtown dance and performances in museums. He’s also lent his pristine presence to some films. Last year Hallberg collaborated with Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli on a performance piece with Performa, a New York City–based organization that presents interdisciplinary works. (Obviously the work, Fortuna Desperata, required less of him technically than a full-fledged ballet would.) He’s flirted with the fashion world too. (His ability to improvise is no doubt an asset here.)

Photo by Bjorn Iooss for CR Fashion Book

But it’s been a long time since ballet audiences have seen Hallberg perform. Fans at both American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi have been wondering when he’ll be back. According to writer Deborah Jones, he first danced with the Australian Ballet in its Nutcracker in 2010. And when he hosted a special Legacy Gala Program at Youth America Grand Prix in 2015, he spoke warmly about Australian Ballet, one of the several companies that performed that night at his request.

We’d all love to see Hallberg dance again. But he told The New York Times in an email that he didn’t know what the future holds. He plans to “just step onstage quietly here and see what transpires.”

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