The fascinating rhythms of David Hallberg

Before YouTube, boys and girls who yearned for a life as a dancer had trouble finding film or video of the great stars of the dance world, especially if they lived far from the big cities of the world.

They or their parents might check out the local video store but in the 1980s there wasn’t much choice on the shelves.

Instead, many boys of that era, and earlier, who later became professional dancers, were inspired by vintage dance movies starring Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Singin’ in the Rain or Top Hat could be easily seen on TV or rented from the video store.

Among them is the American, David Hallberg, 31, who is one of the best, if not the best, male ballet dancers of today.

The tall, fair-haired dancer was inspired to dance at the age of 8 after watching the fascinating rhythm of Astaire in such movies as Swing Time and Shall We Dance.

His mother, Colleen, once told The Huffington Post that “his older brother would be renting The Transformers, and David would be asking for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

“We didn’t know where that came from. Not from us”.

No tap shoes? No problem. He stuck coins onto the soles of his shoes.

“He had a little Sony radio with him, and he’d go tapping down the street”.

Hallberg, born in Rapid City, South Dakota, and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, was blessed with the ideal physique for a future ballet prince.

Aged 13, he took his first ballet classes at the Arizona School for the Arts. His teacher was Kee Juan Han, a former soloist with Boston Ballet.

“Straight away”, Han told Pointe Magazine, “the talent was obvious. The physique was meant for classical dance: perfect body, perfect proportions, beautiful feet and a princely look, even at that age.”

On Han’s advice, Hallberg applied to the Paris Opera Ballet School and was accepted into the school when he was 17. But his ambition was always to join American Ballet Theatre in New York.

He began at ABT Studio Company in 2000 then moved up to the main company in 2001, and was promoted to principal in 2005.

In 2011 he became a premier danseur of the Bolshoi Ballet and he now shares his time between New York and Moscow and guests all over the world.

Now, he’s heading in the celebrity path of Mikhail Baryshnikov as a fashion model and a favourite of the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, Carine Roitfeld, who has featured him in her new publication, CR Fashion Book.

Hallberg danced in Australia in 2010 as a guest in Nutcracker for the Australian Ballet. He was due to return for the company’s 50th anniversary gala last year but injuries came in the way.

Next month, he will return to Australia for three guest performances in Sydney as the Prince in Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella choreographed for the Australian Ballet.

Ratmansky, artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, has created roles for several Ratmansky ballets, among them Kaschei in Firebird, the Prince in Nutcracker and Olga’s Fiancé in On the Dnieper.

It looks as though the AB’s Cinderella season commencing on 29 November is sold out but you could still see Hallberg in conversation with the company’s artistic director, David McAllister at 5pm on 7 December at the Sydney Opera House.

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David Hallberg, jacket and pants, Tom Ford, CR Fashion Book, photo © Bjorn Iooss

Alina Cojocaru and David Hallberg in Giselle, Act II, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Rosalie O’Connor

David Hallberg in Jerome Robbins’ Other Dances, American Ballet Theatre, photo © Rosalie O’Connor