American Ballet Theatre dancer happily moonlights with the Bolshoi
by Hedy Weiss Dance Criticemail@example.com March 21, 2012 3:29PM
Natalia Osipova and David Hallberg in the American Ballet Theatre production of “Giselle.” | PHOTO BY GENE SCHIAVONE
Updated: March 22, 2012 5:02PM
Talk about long commutes.
For the past year, David Hallberg, the princely-looking principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre — who will partner Natalia Osipova in the company’s production of “Giselle” Saturday night at the Auditorium Theatre — has been shuttling back and forth on a regular basis between New York and Moscow.
That is because last year, Hallberg, 29, became the first American dancer to be named a permanent principal with Russia’s fabled Bolshoi Ballet. His ties to ABT remain unchanged, though his schedule has grown more complex.
“It’s sort of six weeks with one, six weeks with the other,” said Hallberg, who admitted he was relieved to have gotten through his first big test in November, dancing that enduring Russian classic, “The Sleeping Beauty,” at the Bolshoi’s elaborately rehabbed theater. “I’m used to the commuting by now. I have two apartments — one in New York and one just behind the Bolshoi Theatre. And I’ve begun learning a bit of Russian, too.”
Born in Rapid City, S.D., Hallberg, elegant, long-limbed and dirty-blonde, fell in love with dance when, at the age of eight, he saw his first Fred Astaire films. He began tap dance classes in an after-school dance program, moved on to training at the Arizona Ballet School and Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, attended the Paris Opera Ballet School and American Ballet Theatre’s Summer Intensive programs, and then joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in 2000. He became part of ABT’s corps de ballet in 2001, and was promoted first to soloist, and then, in 2005, to a principal dancer at ABT.
Along the way he also has been a guest artist with the Maryinsky (Kirov) Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Australian Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet and others.
Asked why he was singled out by the Bolshoi, Hallberg said: “I think they appreciate what I can bring to the company, which is my American experience. The Bolshoi style is quite different, especially with its big jumps, and its focus on creating the illusion of a longer line, though because I’m tall that should work. And it’s something I can hopefully bring back home. The overall emphasis and way of emoting and acting onstage also is different.”
The widely acclaimed Osipova, Hallberg’s partner in Chicago, has been a guest artist with ABT since 2010. She formerly danced with the Bolshoi, but is now part of the new Mikhailovsky Theater in St. Petersburg, led by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato.
“She has such raw energy,” said Hallberg, “And I think there is something electric in out rapport onstage. Neither of us speak the other’s language verbally, but we communicate emotionally.”
“When you dance at the Bolshoi Theatre you really feel the weight of history, and the audiences are very appreciative and knowledgeable because ballet is just in their blood,” said Hallberg, who has met Russia’s lame duck president, Dmitry Medvedev, but not the newly re-elected president Vladimir Putin. “There also is a whole different approach to bowing, because the clapping of audiences there can go on forever. But the truth is, you can’t duplicate the vibrancy and energy of ABT.”
Hallberg has been dancing the role of Prince Albrecht in “Giselle” for about four years.
“It’s not an epic ballet,” he explained. “It’s just a wonderfully well-rounded piece of storytelling and dancing — a very complete work.”
The story tells of a high-spirited village girl who falls for a prince who has assumed the veneer of a commoner. When it is revealed that he already has a royal fiancee, Giselle goes mad and dies. In the ballet’s second act she is in the spirait world — the Land of the Wilis — the home of women jilted before their wedding day. And Albrecht comes to beg her forgiveness.
With “Giselle,” ABT is inaugurating its new partnership (three visits over six years) with the Auditorium Theatre, where a vast rehearsal studio is now part of Roosevelt University’s new “vertical campus” tower adjacent to the theater. Five different casts are scheduled to perform here, as follows: March 22 at 7:30 p.m. (Julie Kent/Marcelo Gomes/Veronika Part); March 23 at 7:30 p.m. (Xiomara Reyes/Herman Cornejo/Simone Messmer); March 24 at 2 p.m. (Paloma Herrera/Cory Stearns/Stella Abrera) and 8 p.m. (Natalia Ospiova/David Hallberg/Veronica Part); and March 25 at 2 p.m. (Yuriko Kajiya/Jared Matthews/Devon Teuscher).
For tickets, $32-$137) call (800) 982-2787 or visit www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium.