Six Reasons We Love David Hallberg
Last Friday, we got to see that David Hallberg is more than a ballet superstar. While recovering from an injury, he is not wasting time. He organized a Legacy Gala program in association with Youth America Grand Prix that presented six international companies he has danced with.
Here’s a partial list of why Hallberg is such a notable member of the dance community (beside his glorious dancing with both ABT and the Bolshoi).
• With an elegance befitting his stature, he inspired us with his talk of passion, presence and possibility. He spoke of his humble beginnings with ABT Studio Company, when he would stand at the doorway in awe of stars like Ethan Stiefel.
• He described each of the companies on the bill with loving admiration. He spoke of the traditions of the Mariinsky Ballet, the artistry of the Bolshoi Ballet, the precision of the Tokyo Ballet and the warmth of the Australian Ballet. He exemplified a wholly generous person who is avid to learn about his craft.
• As a gift to ABT Studio Company, he commissioned a work by Pontus Lidberg—and it’s a winner. Ingenious with props (fans), luxurious in its tableaux (almost like totem poles), tender in its partnering, and musical in partnership with Bach’s "Concertos Italiens." To my eye, it established Lidberg as an original voice in classical/contemporary ballet.
David Hallberg backstage with ABT Studio Company, photo by Henry Leutwyler.
• He cares about the young people who will bring ballet into the future. In 2013, he created scholarship funds for boys to study ballet at ABT’s JKO School and at the School of Ballet Arizona, where he studied as a child.
• He’s curious about other kinds of dance. I’ve seen David at performances of Yvonne Rainer, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Batsheva.
• He is bold enough to speak his mind. At the recent wrap-up session for Claudia La Rocco’s Platform at Danspace Project, he said that he felt ballet dancers should take more responsibility for their own artistic growth.
Hallberg’s own sense of responsibility beams out at us, both onstage and off. He honors the traditions of the past while investing in the future. His curiosity about the present leads him outside his comfort areas, and he’s become a valuable observer and thinker in the dance world at large.
More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:
"Is your daughter the dancer?"
"Actually," I say, "I am."
"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"
"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."
Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.
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