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David Hallberg's memoirs

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Anyone read this? I downloaded it on my kindle today and am still reading it but so far, a few thoughts:

1) He's now the second major-league big deal dancer (Aurelie Dupont being the first) to make it plain that he considered the POB's methods of training and their exclusionary mentality too harsh and demeaning. And he talks a lot about how much he loved his extremely strict ballet teacher, so I'm inclined to believe that the POB school might really be harsh to the point of not producing the best dancers.

2) Ouch at what he said about Michele Wiles.

3) He talks a lot about the bullying that went on as a child because he was perceived as effeminate and into dancing. Thankfully he had supportive parents but that stuff always makes me sad to read.

I'm not done with this book but it's definitely a good read so far.

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That although they danced together for many years she was always passive-aggressive and unhelpful in rehearsals, and always made her displeasure known. There was one blow-out at a rehearsal where she kept wiggling her hip in front of everyone as a way to show how poorly she thought of him as a partner. That he tried several times to mend the relationship but it never happened. He has warm things to say about everyone else he danced with often from Osipova to Zakharova to Dvorovenko to ... well, everyone. 

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Hallberg was a poor partner during the time period at issue.  It took him a long time to build  his upper body strength.  Wiles would have been a particularly difficult assignment for him because she was quite tall.  However, sounds like her behavior in response to his weaknesses was repulsive, unprofessional  and inexcusable.  McKenzie was pairing them together a lot, so that may have been a factor in her abrupt departure from ABT.   I don't think too may audience members shed a tear upon Wiles' departure.

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15 hours ago, abatt said:

Hallberg was a poor partner during the time period at issue.  It took him a long time to build  his upper body strength.  Wiles would have been a particularly difficult assignment for him because she was quite tall.  However, sounds like her behavior in response to his weaknesses was repulsive, unprofessional  and inexcusable.  McKenzie was pairing them together a lot, so that may have been a factor in her abrupt departure from ABT.   I don't think too may audience members shed a tear upon Wiles' departure.

 

I might be remembering this wrong but I remember Wiles being awkward and disconnected with everyone once she made principal. She was paired with Hallberg but I also remember her with Stearns, Gomes, a variety of partners, and every single one was awkward and stiff with her. 

I've read more of the book. I had no idea he was so close to also having a sort-of-full-time gig at the Mariinsky because Yuri Fateyev was coaching him personally. He has very good things to say about Sergei Filin. 

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Wasn't it during a performance with Wiles, might have been SL, when he dislocated his shoulder? I have the book but am waiting until he signs it at the 92nd St Y event tonight to start my reading!

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No doubt Wiles was difficult. I suppose it's also safe for Hallberg to forgo diplomacy in her case. 

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There are several points he raises about his relationship with Wiles:

  • He says that both of them were conflict adverse, and that this was the key to their difficulties.
  • His coach and mentor Guillaume Graffin told him to take control and not get pushed around, which he couldn't, because see point 1.
  • From his description, she both wanted him to take control and to mind-read what she wanted, so that she didn't have to ask for it, because see point 1.
  • Until one day in public she passive-aggressively treated him unprofessionally, and he finally took control and told her he'd had it, which was what Graffin told him to do in the first place, and, after which McKenzie told him, "I know what happened."

He doesn't say this outright, but, chronologically, McKenzie, who was acutely aware of the difficulties they had as a partnership, but cast them together for years, pushed him quickly towards Principal after that, ie, he proved he could take control of the situation.

He also describes how Wiles was a different person with her other partners, so he doesn't paint her as an across-the-board awful colleague and person.

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Hallberg never mentions Wiles' abrupt departure from the company after a Wednesday matinee in 2011. Certainly for him to put this all in the book means he knows that relationship can't ever be repaired.

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Also he doesn't have to worry about getting paired with her again.

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I'm on chapter 8 and it's a fascinating read.

Very sad to read about the awful and persistent bullying he went through.

Wonderful that his parents have been so extremely supportive of him in every area of his life.

He writes in such a descriptive way that I feel like I'm witnessing everything he went through.

The re-counting of his teacher, Mr. Han, saying to his parents "How's Mommy and Daddy doing?" made me laugh out loud!

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Saw Hallberg only on Mezzo Bolshoy telecasts of Sleeping Beauty and Marco Spada. After his very long absence was surprised when he was cast to partner Osipova in Royal Ballet Giselle next March. Have booked but am keeping my fingers crossed :  that's two injury-prone dancers cast together :unsure:

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I don't think it's fair to call a dancer who suffered one catastrophic, almost career-ending injury "injury-prone". By all accounts his "very long absence" was required for full rehabilitation. Perhaps you should read Hallberg's book.

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On 11/30/2017 at 5:17 PM, kbarber said:

Perhaps you should read Hallberg's book.

I will, it's on the way. Am curious about what he has to say about his Bolshoy experience.

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I really liked this book.  What struck me the most were:

  • His appreciation for and gratitude towards
    • His mentors/coaches, no matter how tough they were, and, wow, what a list:  Mr. Han, Guillaume Graffin, Yuri Fateev, Sasha Vetrov. 
    • His rehabilitation team at Australian Ballet: Sue Mayes, Paula Baird Colt, and Megan Connelly.
    • His parents
    • Semyon Chudin for befriending him in Moscow and bringing him to the banya
    • The costumers at the Bolshoi, not just as people, but for the amazing expertise of their craft in constructing them for fit and movement
  • How Natalia Makarova, normally gave him tough and detailed criticism after she saw him dance, put that all aside in their dinner together after he had performed with Kings of Dance and was about to head to Moscow, and gave him key advice before his move
  • How Kevin McKenzie comes across as sage and caring in his advice

I loved his description of the group of people in Moscow outside the ballet who adopted him into their group.  Reading it, I wished he wasn't trying to work for two companies, as well as guesting and on a plane all the time.

The section which had me fighting turning into a blubbering mess on public transit was when he decided to raise the shades and open the doors to allow people to see the rehabilitation process, and that wasn't even the last major breakthrough. He's an emotional guy, and his description of the years of his injury and rehab is gut-wrenching.  But in a more subtle way, so was his learning to be vulnerable to a team that was giving him positive messages, instead of criticism, where it really was all about him, rather than pleasing a coach or a picture in his head.

It's a privilege to be let inside such a raw experience.

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2 hours ago, Helene said:

It's a privilege to be let inside such a raw experience.

I agree, but I'd expected a different ending, one in which during his enforced time off he'd gained some perspective on his drive for excellence and come to distinguish between David Hallberg the person and David Hallberg the dancer, realizing the second was not absolutely necessary for the first. I fear for him a little if he experiences significant injury again. 

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I think he was already there when he was deciding whether or not to retire or try to come back, and he had an articulate vision for what he wanted to accomplish in dance after he retired.

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I haven't yet finished the book (almost!) but he did say at his book signing/Q&A at the 92nd St Y that now that he had once faced the possibility of retiring he no longer feared it.

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Well, my goodness, I am off to buy the book now! it sounds great.

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One thing I forgot to mention: he was invited to Evgenia Obraztsova's wedding, and he gives a lovely description of the the Russian Orthodox ceremony.

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I finished this today, reluctantly. I wish it kept going.

Very engrossing book, though at times I didn't like his writing style (he's not a "writer" so the contents far outweighed his style, for me). 

I really admire his willingness to lay bare his internal world, especially during his injury and long, arduous recovery. He was frank about his depression, anxiety, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Hallberg is such an emotional person, and at times was so internally tortured, that I wished I could have given him a hug and somehow make it all better. 

He says nothing about the end of his Bolshoi tenure, so I assume he's hoping he can return there some day.

He's very thankful to so many people who helped him along the way, whether during his early years or during his recovery. A very grateful and humble guy.

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I started it.   The bullying stuff was so tragic.  Made me so sad.  I have high schoolers and it happens. 

ABT Fan--You are spot on. Not a writer at all but content is intriguing. I find the narrative kind of flat. It just reminds me of a "typical" ballet bio. 

Kwf. . . I look forward to getting to the end and exploring this theme. Whelan's husband. . You are human then an artist, then a dancer, then a ballet dancer. 

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