Jan 19: Swan Lake

American Ballet Theater star David Hallberg is the newest principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet.


Rudolf Nureyev sparked worldwide headlines—and near constant KGB surveillance—as the first major Soviet dancer to defect to the West at the height of the Cold War. Mikhail Baryshnikov followed suit, with similar fanfare. While American Ballet Theatre star David Hallberg had only to accept an invitation rather than pierce an iron curtain, his latest role is no less historic: As the newest principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, he’s the first American invited to join the top ranks of a storied Russian ballet company. (“They’re admitting that there are other dancers, not just Russian ones,” says Hallberg.) On January 19, he appears in Swan Lake—on the very stage where that most famous of ballets had its debut in 1877. Known for his long, princely line and peerless elegance, Hallberg, 29, says that he’s “game to do things that don’t fit me so well,” in sampling the bravura Bolshoi style and imbuing his own dancing with more oomph. The day we spoke, in November, he’d just moved to Moscow into an apartment behind the newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre. To make him feel at home, the company had his place outfitted with blue crushed-velvet drapes. Ironically, Hallberg is hoping to furnish it with Soviet-era furniture, which so far, he says, “has proven impossible to find. So I’m scouring flea markets. Failing that, I’ll be off to Ikea.”