Let’s not get too excited, but next month ballet superstar David Hallberg returns to the stage. He’s been recuperating from an ankle injury in Australia, where he will start dancing again. The Australian Ballet, which has been helpful in his two-year recovery, asked him to perform the role of Franz in their scheduled run of Coppélia at Sydney Opera House, Dec. 13, 16, 19 and 21. It will be a debut for him, since he is more often cast as either a prince, a villain or in contemporary works at American Ballet Theatre.
Hallberg made history in 2011 as the first American to become a principal at the Bolshoi. Our June 2012 cover story sang his praises as a classical dance artist who’s not afraid to experiment. Commenting about the Bolshoi approach, he said, “It’s more open and, in essence, bigger. I’m so open to all of that because I want to get the most out of learning the Bolshoi technique.”
His view of dance goes beyond ballet. While living in New York, he often attended downtown dance and performances in museums. He’s also lent his pristine presence to some films. Last year Hallberg collaborated with Italian artist Francesco Vezzoli on a performance piece with Performa, a New York City–based organization that presents interdisciplinary works. (Obviously the work, Fortuna Desperata, required less of him technically than a full-fledged ballet would.) He’s flirted with the fashion world too. (His ability to improvise is no doubt an asset here.)
But it’s been a long time since ballet audiences have seen Hallberg perform. Fans at both American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi have been wondering when he’ll be back. According to writer Deborah Jones, he first danced with the Australian Ballet in its Nutcracker in 2010. And when he hosted a special Legacy Gala Program at Youth America Grand Prix in 2015, he spoke warmly about Australian Ballet, one of the several companies that performed that night at his request.
We’d all love to see Hallberg dance again. But he told The New York Times in an email that he didn’t know what the future holds. He plans to “just step onstage quietly here and see what transpires.”