The world’s most famous male ballet dancer grew up and trained here in Arizona, and he’s established a scholarship here to get more boys interested in ballet. David Hallberg has established the “David Hallberg Scholarship for Boys.” He will talk about his scholarship, his career, and bullying he faced as a boy while studying ballet.
Ted Simons: Tonight on "Arizona Horizon" Artbeat, we hear from one of the best known ballet dancers, his name is David Hallberg. He's the first American premiere dancer to join the Bolshoi ballet, and grew up and trained right here in Arizona. He has also established a scholarship to help more boys and men pursue a career in ballet, I recently talked to David Hallberg about his scholarship, career, and the bully he faced when he studied ballet as a boy. Thanks for joining us on "Arizona Horizon".
David Hallberg: A pleasure to be here.
Ted Simons: Why start a scholarship for boys interested in ballet?
David Hallberg: You know, I was one of those boys when I was young who had the itch to dance, but didn't really have the direction or the guidance. Didn't really know where to train, and that, essentially, is what I'm trying to do is, bring awareness to, to really good, strong classical ballet training, and if boys, you know, a lot of the times it's more boys than girls who, who want to -- who have that inclination naturally, who want to dance. And, and I want to bring that sort of awareness to boys and say, you know, at the school of ballet Arizona, you can, you can get great training.
Ted Simons: And financial help if you need that. And the financial help can be an issue, can't it? A lot of these kids come from families, and cannot afford it.
David Hallberg: It can cost $5,000 a year for training and, and if that, in essence, is a complication, this scholarship offers that sort of help.
Ted Simons: Does that also help to get boys interested in ballet? Because let's face it, this is America, boys in baseball, hot dogs, and the whole nine yards, and there are boys who look at dance and go, I think I like this, but they are not sure. There is peer pressure. And how do you get past all of that?
David Hallberg: You get past all that by first of all, your own motivation. And second of all, awareness. I find that, you know, if, if, if there is a scholarship that exists like this, and word is out, you can, in essence, find is a great school to train at and, and see if you like it, you know. Don't necessarily have to become a huge professional dancer and a big ballet company. But, this gives the sort of platform to train, you know, young male dancers who have a desire to dance.
Ted Simons: Is there more of a desire, and I am thinking, I think I should the answer to this, but more a desire among European than American boys?
David Hallberg: There but there is more awareness. A lot of the really big schools in America, in Russia, sorry, in Europe and in Russia, they have help from the Government. And in whatever country you are in, if you want to dance ballet you go to the Bolshoi School or the Paris Opera School, about that does not really exist in America. So, I am trying to bring awareness to that. I know there is a great school in the Phoenix area that can train male dancers very well.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about you. How did you get involved in ballet? What was the first time you said, I think I like this?
David Hallberg: When I saw Fred Astair on TV in some sort of black and white obscure movie, and it was my own doing. My parents didn't push me. In essence, they did not really know what to do after I showed this interest in dance. But, it's just become an absolute obsession and passion of mine. It grew and grew from age of eight.
Ted Simons: And -- I have read where you said, it was a personal journey riddled with hardship. What's that all about?
David Hallberg: Any sort of personal journey, the sacrifices I have made, it is riddled by hardships, but by that, I mean I was seriously bullied while I was in school. While I was a young teenager. You know, the typical story doing something different from, from your peers, and being really shot down for it.
Ted Simons: And again, that kind of comes back to getting boys interested in ballet and, the boys who might be interested but they are afraid. They are afraid to be picked on, say frayed to be called names, how did you get past that?
David Hallberg: You get past that by your own motivation and standing found what you believe in. It's easier for me now that I'm older to, to look back and say, I wish that I would have stood up for myself a bit more, but, you get past that we, by really asking yourself, what you love to do. And if what love to do is dancing, then that's what you love to do.
Ted Simons: And you had an experience at, a lot of experience at ballet Arizona, correct? That's where you cut your teeth?
David Hallberg: That's really where I start to train. Really intensely. I had a great teacher there, and it really was the formation that propelled me into the professional career.
Ted Simons: A professional career, and you wound up being the first American kind of big wig to join the Bolshoi, for goodness sakes?
David Hallberg: Yes, the first American premiere, that's the top spot at the Bolshoi so in essence, I do all of the main roles, I am, you know, the principal dancer, the star or whatever word you want to use, so I'm the first American to hold that spot, and it's, you know, hundreds and hundreds of years of history.
Ted Simons: How did they react?
David Hallberg: They were a little apprehensive at first. I had the administration backing me up. They made this offer. I was excited to go. It was a risk for me and for them. But, I noticed the dancers were a little stand-offish at the beginning. No one was rude but they warmed up to me after a while, you know.
Ted Simons: Isn't that something? And now, as far as -- I always ask this. We get someone from opera or the finer arts on, I ask this because I think that some people go to these events, and they think that they should be -- they like it, but they think that they are missing something, or they should be appreciating it more than they are. When you go to a ballet, if you are a neophyte, what should do after the lights dim?
David Hallberg: When the lights dim, it's a magical moment. Something is about to start. So, once it starts, it boils down to the fact of whether you like it or not. And if you are looking at a ballet for two hours, just decide what you like, decide what you don't like. And maybe what you thought was boring. Maybe what excited you. And it really goes down to personal taste, whether you have this refined sort of palate or whether you are seeing the ballet for the first time. And it's like art in general. You know what you like and you know what you don't like. It does not have to be this, you know, amazingly educated view. It's whether it moves or not, whether you have this emotional reaction or whether you don't really like it.
Ted Simons: Like poetry where you can either diagram and get the meters and all, or just look at the words and go, that's neat. I like that.
David Hallberg: Yes.
Ted Simons: The scholarship. What does it cover and who is eligible and how do you apply?
David Hallberg: It covers the yearly prescription tuition. It covers all expenses for the year. And you apply by either calling the school of ballet Arizona or going on their website, and you know, it's just -- right now it's bringing awareness to the valley. Bringing awareness if there are young, you know, boys out there that want to dance, they have a place to do it. And they can receive financial support, and a mentorship and just kind of that extra push that they may need to fall in love with dance.
Ted Simons: Good luck with the scholarship and continued success with your career.