Sunday, January 15, 2012

He is the first American dancer to join the Bolshoi Ballet. The Bolshoi is the most revered ballet troupe in the world and for an American to join the ranks of the very best at their craft in the world is indeed a milestone. In Russia male dancers are many and considered great athletes in America male dancers are bullied and probably gay.
Comedy Centrals Steven Colbert from the Colbert Report on his show called him a traitor in slightly tighter pants. He is Ballet dancer David Hallberg who is also a member of the American Ballet Theater. Does that make him a double agent? No, just a very talented dancer wanted by all.
He is the first American ever to be granted the honor of being a member of both Ballet companies across the world. It is a bold offer because all the previous offers to join were Russian dancers. Until now, the traffic of talented dancers have mostly been the other way. From Russia to America.
There was Rudolph Nureyev who defected from the Soviet Union in 1961. Mikhail Baryshnikov who followed in 1974. It was in the middle of the cold war and considered a great thing for the western world when Russia’s finest chose the west and defects in Paris. It became a huge propaganda victory for the West.
Now the cold war is over but David Hallberg knew the impact his decision to dance in Russia would mean for both countries. He sees himself as an Ambassador and holds the responsibility to represent America. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona to a non dancing family. His inspiration came from seeing videos of the American dancers at 8 years old like Fred Astaire in the classic film Top Hat in 1935 where he dazzled America in top hat and cane tap dancing all over the stage by himself.
David started with tap lessons and his first tap shoes had nickels taped to the bottom of his penny loafers. A local production of the Nutcracker Suite led him to Ballet. Then the bullying began because America does not view Dance in this country as seriously as in Europe. It was a few years of a scaring experience but he went forward with his passion for dance.
At age 19 he joined New York’s American Ballet Theatre and 5 years later he was considered a principal dancer. He is now one of his generation’s best dancers in one of the world’s best companies. He gloats in the thought of how he wishes he could see those bullies now who made fun of his choices then. Like the successful one returning to the high school reunion being famous and internationally known to be a first of something in our generation. Truly remarkable considering the competition he has to face in Russia where they take dance very seriously as an occupation.
He says, “ If I can relay anything it’s that someone has a dream and it isn’t the norm of what others are doing around you, it doesn’t matter, reach for it , go for it because I’m a shining example of that.” So, why risk all you’ve worked toward to join the Bolshoi? The historic Theater has just held its grand reopening after a six year $700 million dollar renovation. When David Hallberg arrived in Moscow Bolshoi means big and the reaction from the Russians from his hiring was big. David said, that he never experienced expectation and pressure like that in his life.
So, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attended the gala opening of the first new production in the newly refurbish theater of the ballet of Sleeping Beauty with its American prince. It was a very big event in Russia. And for David a feeling of triumph personally and politically for his country. His reviews were great. And now he is known as the Ambassador for American ballet. Bravo!

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