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David Hallberg
A Body of Work: Dancing to the Edge and Back
Author Photo
Book Cover
Ballet Arizona
Rainn Wilson

David Hallberg, the first American to join the famed Bolshoi Ballet as a principal dancer, presents an intimate journey through his artistic life up to the moment he returns to the stage after a devastating injury almost cost him his career.

In conversation with Ib Andersen, the Artistic Director at Ballet Arizona.

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David Hallberg, the first American to join the famed Bolshoi Ballet as a principal dancer and the dazzling artist The New Yorker described as "the most exciting male dancer in the western world," presents an intimate journey through his artistic life up to the moment he returns to the stage after a devastating injury almost cost him his career.

Beginning with his real-life Billy Elliot childhood—an all-American story marred by intense bullying—and culminating in his hard-won come-back, Hallberg's brave memoir dives deep into life as an artist as he wrestles with ego, pushes the limits of his body, and searches for ecstatic perfection and fulfillment as one of the world's most acclaimed ballet dancers.

While rich in detail ballet fans will adore, this is a book that anyone interested in a life of creativity will love. Hallberg reflects on themes like inspiration, self-doubt, and perfectionism as he takes readers into daily classes, rigorous rehearsals, and triumphant performances, searching for new interpretations of ballet's greatest roles. He reveals the loneliness he felt as a teenager leaving America to join the Paris Opera Ballet, the ambition he had to tame as a new member of American Ballet Theatre, and the reasons behind his headline-grabbing decision to be the first American to join the top rank of Bolshoi Ballet, tendered by the artistic director who would later be the victim of a vicious acid attack. Then, as Hallberg performed throughout the world at the peak of his abilities, he suffered a crippling ankle injury and unsuccessful surgery leading to an agonizing retreat from ballet and an honest reexamination of his entire life.

Combining his powers of observation and memory with emotional honesty and artistic insight, Hallberg has written a great ballet memoir and an intimate portrait of an artist in all his vulnerability, passion, and wisdom.

Born in South Dakota, DAVID HALLBERG began his formal ballet training at the age of 13 with Kee Juan Han at the Arizona Ballet School and continued his studies at the Paris Opera Ballet School. Mr. Hallberg joined American Ballet Theatre in April 2001 and became a Principal Dancer in May 2005.

Mr. Hallberg made history in September 2011 when he became the first American to join the Bolshoi Ballet under the title Premier Dancer. He danced the Prince in The Sleeping Beauty in the first ballet performance at the renovated Bolshoi Theater. He later appeared in a live cinema broadcast of the performance which was streamed to 60 countries around the world. His other repertoire with the Company includes Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Giselle and Onegin and the Bolshoi's first performances of George Balanchine's Jewels in May 2012. He toured to Japan with the Bolshoi in January 2012, Covent Garden in August 2013, Washington DC in May 2014, and New York in July 2014, opening the Lincoln Center Festival in Swan Lake with Svetlana Zakharova.

In December 2013, he made his debut with the Paris Opera Ballet dancing Rudolf Nureyev's The Sleeping Beauty. He danced with the La Scala Ballet in Hong Kong in February 2014 and made his debut with the Company in Milan in April 2014 with three performances of Rudolf Nureyev's Swan Lake.

With American Ballet Theatre, his repertoire of full length ballets includes leading roles in Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Onegin, La Bayadère, Othello, Le Corsaire, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Sylvia, La Sylphide, The Bright Stream, Lady of the Camellias and Raymonda. He dances a wide range of shorter works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Kurt Jooss, Antony Tudor, Mark Morris, Twyla Tharp, Lar Lubovitch, Jiri Kylian, Frederick Ashton and William Forsythe. Alexei Ratmansky has created roles for Mr. Hallberg in six of his World Premieres for ABT: On the Dnieper and Seven Sonatas in 2009; The Nutcracker in December 2010, The Firebird in 2012, Chamber Symphony in 2013, and Whipped Cream in 2017.

In December 2012, Mr. Hallberg danced at the Kennedy Center Honors celebrating the career of Natalia Makarova. The performance, attended by President and Mrs. Obama, was telecast nationally. Other television/radio credits include The Colbert Report, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR's All Things Considered and Here and Now.

Mr. Hallberg has been a guest artist with Mariinsky Ballet, Teatro Colon Buenos Aires, Kiev Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, Opera di Roma, Georgian State Ballet and The Australian Ballet. In 2008, 2009, and 2011 he toured with the ensemble, Kings Of The Dance in which he danced Frederick Ashton's Dance of the Blessed Spirits, originally created for Sir Anthony Dowell. In various seasons, the program was seen in Russia, Eastern Europe and the United States. Mr. Hallberg was the only dancer after Sir Anthony to dance this solo.

Mr. Hallberg won the 2010 Benois de la Danse Prize as best male dancer for his performance as Albrecht in Giselle with American Ballet Theatre. He was a recipient of the Princess Grace Fellowship and the Chris Hellman Dance Award for 2002-2003 and its Statue Award in 2014. Nina Ananishvili honored him with the "Rising Star Award" from the Georgian State Ballet in 2010. He was also awarded "The Bell Family Foundation Emerging Artist Award" from Americans for the Arts.

Mr. Hallberg created the David Hallberg Scholarship to mentor a young aspiring male student for a career in dance at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of American Ballet Theatre. He has also created The Innovation Initiative at ABT, facilitating a platform for emerging choreographers in the field of dance.

In 2017, The Australian Ballet named Mr. Hallberg "Resident Guest Artist," the first dancer to hold that title.
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