In ten days’ time David Hallberg returns to the Bolshoi to dance Onegin with Svetlana Zakharova. He talked to PBS News Hour about dance, and his first appearance with the company after the various scandals which have rocked the theatre during the last six months.
In Russia [ballet] is in their blood, it’s in their culture, unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a sort of pride and sense of purpose which to me is so inspiring to see.
So if ballet is the Russian baseball, how does an American boy like David Hallberg get to start dancing instead of wielding a bat? Watching Top Hat with Fred Astaire when he was eight.
I was glued to the way he moved: his suaveness, his seamless way of movement. He was a huge inspiration for me when I was young.
So he started attending classes with Kee Juan Han, who was at the time the director of the Arizona Ballet School.
He did not kill me with kindness. My parents would sit in on my private lessons from time to time, and almost called the child protective services. But I was so naïve at the time, I didn’t know how hard I was working, and that served as the perfect ground to mould me into a ballet dancer.
I was the only boy in my environment who danced and I made a target for bullying. It was a very hurtful experience, but I never questioned [my dancing], I never doubted my love for it, I never [thought about] whether I should quit or not, to try and fit in because everyone was making fun of me — it was my respite, it was a sort of escape for me.
Now Hallberg returns to the Bolshoi for the first time after Ballet Director Sergei Filin was injured in an acid attack in January which has left him almost blind. It was Filin who invited Hallberg to join the company, and is thought to be one of the causes of tension in the company. Many dancers felt that local talent was being overlooked in favour of the American boy.
It’s an absolutely unacceptable act, and attack. Sergei is a visionary in the sense that he is pushing the Bolshoi Theatre into the future, and he’s pushing a new generation of dancers, and I can’t support that sort of vision enough.
PBS interviewer Jeffrey Brown asked him if he had any fears going back.
Certainly. I’d call myself naïve if I didn’t. But I feel like I need to fulfill my commitment to the company. I’m not going to let an attack like this derail my career. This is my career and it doesn’t last forever.