- Photography by Mr Billy Kidd | Styling by Mr Mitchell Belk
- Words by Mr William Van Meter
Only a handful of male dancers have crossed over from ballet to full-fledged pop culture stardom. Now it's time to welcome South Dakota native Mr David Hallberg to the ranks alongside Nureyev and Baryshnikov.
In 2011, when Mr Hallberg became the first American principal dancer at the Bolshoi, it was a "Dylan goes electric" shock. But the 31-year-old Mr Hallberg backed up his ingénue status with skill (it also didn't hurt that his athleticism and fluid grace are paired with regal Nordic good looks). When not in Russia, Mr Hallberg is also the principal dancer for the American Ballet Theater. He has also found the time to become a lithe and in-demand guest model in many fashion spreads.
It feels good to have beautifully made clothes on. In Russia, people really dress up, so I can't ever dress like a slob!
"It's a separate medium for me," Mr Hallberg says. "Portraying a story for an editorial is a different form of expression and an outlet." It's also a good excuse to hang up the tights. Mr Hallberg hints that he has other future fashion excursions in the works, but they're top secret. "There is stuff simmering on the burners," is all he says.
We caught up with him in Brooklyn the day before he left for eight months in Moscow to begin rehearsals for the Bolshoi Theatre.
Tell me about Moscow. Have you fully adjusted, or are you still a stranger in a strange land?
It's a second home now. But it's taken a while to feel comfortable there, because I don't speak the language. I'm going to have a tutor once I get there to start hunkering down and learning Russian properly. Fortunately, I have a great set of friends outside the theatre who take care of me - no expats, just full-on Russians. It was initially difficult in Moscow to tap into a group of friends, but eventually that happened. Before that, however, I lived a monastic life: I'd go to work and go home and read. I'd spend so much time alone and almost go crazy. It was a huge change from my life in New York where I was super active and had tons of friends. But it was a nice respite to focus on what is important - my dancing. It was inspiring: like a writer locking themselves in the woods and getting through their novel.
So during this hermit phase, what did you read?
I read a lot of nonfiction. The only fiction I really read is Hermann Hesse. I'm about to start the biography of Nijinsky, which is a little obvious since he's a dancer; and I've been reading some books on Russian culture.
What is your everyday life like in Moscow?
I live a close walk from the theatre. Work is intense and it's my primary focus. I rehearse four hours a day but then have class and conditioning so it's six hours altogether. I see a lot of other artists, not dancers per se, but a lot of visual and performance artists. I see a lot of culture - I'm very culturally driven. That obviously inspires my work and keeps me going personally.
Mr Hallberg in Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg, April 2011
You've been an athlete and artist since you were a child, training intensely. Do you feel as if you missed out on some of your youth by having to lead this regimented lifestyle?
I might have missed out on my college years; a lot of people say that is the most fun time. I trained and then joined the ballet company. Maybe I missed partying in college, but listen, it's all been worth it. I'm completely fulfilled as a dancer.
Do you feel like ballet informs the way you dress? Do you feel it is necessary to wear things that feel non-restrictive?
A lot of the time I'm dressing for comfort. I'm in tights all day. They become second skin. When I try on beautiful clothes, such as McQueen trousers, it just feels good to have beautifully made clothes on. In Russia, people really dress up, so I can't ever dress like a slob!
Mr Hallberg is next performing in the Bolshoi Theatre's production of Giselle on 25 October. bolshoi.ru