THE REBIRTH OF
A New Dancer, A Different Person
David Hallberg almost quit dancing
two years ago. The international ballet
star, whose talent and drive had made
him the first American to join the Bolshoi
Ballet as a principal dancer, was struggling after a 2014 ankle surgery to repair
a frayed deltoid ligament. A resulting
mass of scar tissue ultimately required a
second surgery. Impingements and Achilles tendinopathy hounded him, making it
nearly impossible to plié, as he pushed to
get back into the studio.
Meanwhile, he was fielding promising offers to direct companies and curate
festivals. Unsure of himself, the American Ballet Theatre principal sought
advice from ABT artistic director Kevin
McKenzie: Was it time to retire and
move on to a leadership role, or was it
worth giving his recovery another shot?
“He was injured and wasn’t back on
top of the world yet, but it also seemed
to me that he was splitting his focus,
trying to manage a dancing career on
pause when his rehab needed 110 percent,” says McKenzie. “If he wanted to
direct, he should direct, but if he wanted
to dance, he should drop all else and
dance.” McKenzie urged Hallberg not
to let the injury decide the end for him,
cautioning that it’s best to make career
decisions from a place of good health.
The advice resonated. Hallberg
reached out to a close friend, Australian
Ballet dancer Brooke Lockett, to see if
she could talk to AB’s principal physiotherapist Sue Mayes about his situation.
In his time guesting with AB, he’d ob-
served its premier rehab team in action.
“I ended up sending Sue this long email
“Sue was always confident we could
detailing what had gone wrong,” says
Hallberg. “It was a very strong note,
along the lines of ‘Save me or I will re-
tire.’ ” Mayes conferred with AB artistic
director David McAllister and wrote
back, “How soon can you be here?”
Hallberg booked a one-way ticket to
Melbourne, with no sense that it would
be 14 months before he returned.
get David back onstage,” says McAl-
lister. “But this was a big responsibility
for us to take on because he is a bloody
Henry Leutwyler for
Clothing by Prada.