At last, David Hallberg steps out of the shadows and into the spotlight

The last supermoon of the year lit up the sky above the Sydney Opera House, the temperature hovered around 30 degrees, and inside the full house a star returned to the spotlight for the first time in more than two years.

When David Hallberg stepped on to the stage as the village lad, Franz, the audience welcomed him with polite applause but by the end of Act III of Coppelia, the applause was loud and long and would have lasted even longer if he and his Swanilda, Amber Scott, had stepped forward from behind the curtain to take a special bow.

Hallberg, it seemed, wanted to return to the stage in a modest way, without the razzamatazz that usually goes hand in hand with a star dancer.

Yet his performance was the highlight of the Australian dance year, and not just for his comeback after injury, but for the pleasure of watching his pure, classical ballet technique, the perfection in his lines, the generosity of his partnering and the warmth of his acting.

Amber Scott, who has danced with Hallberg before in Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella, seemed to glow from within in the cheeky role of Swanilda, one that is far from the princess roles she performs more frequently.

That’s not to say it’s any easier.

In Coppelia, the role of Swanilda calls for a great deal of stamina as she dances throughout the entire ballet, from the first waltz, to the doll solos and then to the grand pas de deux at the end.

Coppelia is a ballet where mime plays a major part but can easily be overplayed.

Not so with both Hallberg and Scott. Both were believable in the roles of the young – and a little bit silly – lovers. Silly that is until they marry and celebrate with the grand pas de deux that is always the high point of the ballet but with this cast, was also a sublime example of the classical pas de deux, in particular the adage that precedes the variations.

It was also a pleasure to see the connection between the two principals and the guest conductor, Barry Wordsworth.

After Hallberg has spent so much time in rehabilitation at the Australian Ballet, all we can hope is that he returns to the company as soon as he can.

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