When David Hallberg, principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre, joined the ballet company of Bolshoi Theater in Moscow about three years ago, it was big news on both sides of the Atlantic. During the Soviet era, there were several high-profile defections of dancers to the United States (Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, among others), but Hallberg was the very first American to be invited by the celebrated Russian company, which has traditions going back to the 18th-century. Now, during the Bolshoi's appearances as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City, David Hallberg talks with T+L about the work with the company and living in Moscow.
Q. What will you dance in New York?
A. Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake. One of the reasons I accepted the opportunity to join the company was to deepen my interpretation of the role and other classics. Also, I wanted the challenge of a style, distinct from my background and training in Phoenix, where I received my formation, then Paris, and later New York. I have a wonderful coach.
Q. What is it like to be part of the Bolshoi?
A. Well, Bolshoi means big and there are more than 200 dancers in the ballet company. But one doesn't feel lost. You feel a part of a beehive of productivity: dancers are coming and going on a six-day work schedule; preparing different ballets as well as those being performed in repertory.
Q. What can American audiences expect to see?
A. The Bolshoi and ballet are central in Russia culture, as nowhere else. There is a reverence and respect for the art as well as the company that you can't help but feel and carry on stage when you perform. The productions are large-scale, the acting is deep in emotion, but also nuanced and subtle.
Q. What has surprised you most about living in Moscow.
A. That I would grow to love it as much as I do. I used to dread returning to Russia after being back home in New York, but now I look forward to exploring Moscow with the great friends I have made. It has an interesting contemporary scene that is stimulating.
Q. What do you miss from the U.S.A.?
A. Natural peanut butter...and a really good cheeseburger and fries!
Mario Mercado is T+L's Arts and Research Editor