How could this happen? David Hallberg joins Bolshoi Ballet 2

In a tremendous blow to American ballet, our best home-grown talent, literally a corn-fed farm boy from South Dakota, David Hallberg, 29, announced today that he is joining the Bolshoi Ballet. Ka-thunk.

This caps off, in one stunning announcement, twenty years, at a minimum, of Europe stealing the U.S.’s thunder as the global bastion of ballet vitality and, indeed, the motor of ballet’s future. But for it to come from Russia — still crawling out of its ossified, artistically stultifying, Soviet period — for the Russians to swoop in and pluck our top dog, ow, that hurts.

However real or symbolic the actions of one dancer, on some level, it represents a reversal of a century-long, one-way talent flow in which Russian dancers abandoned home and country to emigrate (viz., defect) to the U.S. Here, they have enjoyed artistic freedom, diverse career options, and challenging contemporary choreography. It is totally disturbing that ABT’s offerings could not sufficiently stimulate Hallberg, and provide him what he was seeking — on any level.

In a p.r. fiasco, American Ballet Theatre’s artistic director Kevin McKenzie, undoubtedly shaken by the loss of arguably his greatest star (and this is not just about pride, it is about money; ABT has invested a fortune into developing Hallberg), gave this parting shot to his brilliant danseur noble in the New York Times.

‘Noble’ dancers like this are very rare at any time in history,” said Kevin McKenzie, Ballet Theater’s artistic director. “David certainly is one, but he has never wanted to be pigeonholed that way. He’s willing to make a fool of himself” in rehearsal, to experiment. “

Yuck. So ungracious. Who’s the fool? It is claimed that Hallberg will continue as a principal with ABT. Whatever. You can read the story in the New York Times here. Yes, I am in a bad mood about this. I brooded on it for hours before writing.

By the way, according to the NYT, we are still getting Hallberg in Orange County next April.


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2 thoughts on “How could this happen? David Hallberg joins Bolshoi Ballet

  1. debra Sep 26,2011 3:30 pm

    With all due respect, Karen, we do not need better ballet dancers. We are full of dancers, obviously few of Hallberg’s caliber, but a lack of fine dancers is not a problem. Top problem: we need American classical choreography of the level of DeMille, Robbins, Feld. American voices that audiences can relate to. Next, we need strategies for our companies to survive. Losing a huge box office draw like Hallberg at the prime of his career cannot be seen as anything but a blow, and I would further suggest, a balls-up by American Ballet Theatre. This concerns the business of ballet, and, believe me, it’s not a good thing. Yours, Debra L.

  2. Karen Goodman Sep 26,2011 2:57 pm

    I think it’s a good thing. Ultimately, it will make our ballet dancers better.

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