Bounding Back: Ballet's David Hallberg

Marty Sohl/American Ballet Theatre

The dance sensation is off the DL and ready to dazzle once again.

To ballet lovers the world over, David Hallberg might as well be superhuman. Not only does he look like the dance world’s paragon of male perfection—tall, princely, and beautifully extended— but he also moves with an incomparable blend of lyricism and power. But as his fans learned 2½ years ago, Hallberg is as vulnerable to the dangers of his profession as any mortal. After a season as a principal dancer with both American Ballet Theatre in New York and Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet, he was sidelined with a debilitating ankle injury. For the past 14 months, he’s undertaken a recovery program seemingly as far from his audience as possible: at the Australian Ballet in Melbourne. “I didn’t see the silver lining, or even a light at the end of the tunnel, for a very long time,” Hallberg says. “In Australia, I focused solely on the rehab, shutting out all outside sources.”

He still vividly remembers the day he knew he was finally ready to return to dancing. He was standing on the balcony of his Melbourne apartment and listening to the third movement of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 7. “It hit me,” he recalls. “All the work, all the struggle, all the doubt and fear—it all rose above me, and I could finally see what lay ahead. There was such beauty in stepping away and coming back.”

Now, after quietly returning to the stage in Australia in December, he’ll make that much-awaited comeback for New York audiences at ABT, in resident artist Alexei Ratmansky’s ballet Whipped Cream (May 22–July 1). Although rehearsing familiar repertoire, he feels like a new dancer. “I feel much richer as an artist,” Hallberg says, “with more to share. It was only because of what I fought for, and went through, that I can feel this way now.”