For all its breathtaking beauty and historic influence, the Bolshoi Ballet has been in the news lately mostly for its internal politics. In a man-bites-dog drama, a principal dancer may have arranged to throw battery acid in the face of the company's artistic director, Sergei Filin.
The theater was to reopen in the fall of 2011 with a spectacular production of the ballet Sleeping Beauty. Filin recruited American superstar David Hallberg to be a principal dancer.
Emerging Pictures' Ballet in Cinema was on hand to document the event in HD.
Hallberg, who received his early dance training in Phoenix, returns to Arizona for an HD broadcast of Act II of that historic performance, at 5 p.m., Saturday, March 16, at the Loft Cinema.
When you were studying dance in Phoenix as a child, what was it like for you in school?
I was bullied for years until I got into a performing arts school (in Phoenix). When I was about 15 I finally realized I wanted to make a career out of ballet and I wanted to be a professional dancer. I found American Ballet Theatre and was truly inspired by the dancers with the company. It's considered one of the best companies in the world. I attended one of their summer intensives and then went up through the ranks. I had my sights set on being a principal. I really was hungry for that.
You had a remarkable career for more than a decade with American Ballet Theater (ABT). How did the move to the Bolshoi come about? Did you get culture shock?
I joined the Bolshoi about a year and a half ago. Sergei Filin knew who I was, and when I was in Moscow with ABT, he wanted to have lunch with me. He made this offer to join the company. The company and the administration were very accommodating, very nice, but there was a lot of pressure to do the telecast and the opening of the theater, so I did feel a lot of pressure.
How are you coping with all the recent drama and publicity about internal strife in the company?
I think it's obviously a horrible incident that happened, but I only have positive things to say about the theater. I've only had really great experiences there. And my biggest supporter is Sergei Filin; he supports me as much as I support him.
Describe what's unique about the Bolshoi's repertoire.
The repertoire at the Bolshoi is more classical, I mean they're steeped in such a huge history. They have these beautiful traditions that they uphold, which is very exciting for someone who's an outsider like me.
How do you see the audience for classical ballet evolving?
It's certainly evolving. That's why I'm coming to Tucson! Audiences are able to see a performance that took place in Moscow in a live telecast and also pre-recorded, and see it in a movie theater - they're given a certain access, with fabulous filming, that they would not have been given 10 years ago. There's a huge evolution in that sense. YouTube definitely gets the word out, and you discover dancers that you never would have been given a chance to see. There's nothing like seeing a live performance, but also there's something about reaching a mass audience like this.
What should people particularly watch for in your interpretation of the prince in Sleeping Beauty?
I think the sort of refinement of a prince who hasn't in essence found his true love. If I could equate it to anything, it would be, sort of, my desire to dance, and how that was a driving force in my life but I didn't really know how to explain it or know why I loved it or know where it was going to lead. The prince in Sleeping Beauty doesn't really know where this sort of force is taking him, he just knows that he's following it. Of course it leads to Aurora and true love. In a more (material) sense, the audience can see the grandeur that is not only Bolshoi but the beautiful production. The sets and the costumes are completely first rate, and it's such a gorgeous production for what was the opening of the theater.