"Just dance it": David Hallberg at Harvard

by Dance

Guest blogger Mari Sosa '12 shares her enthusiasm for David Hallberg's master class at the Harvard Dance Center.

As a senior stepping into my last Harvard ballet class last week, there was no better way to commemorate the moment than with a greeting from David Hallberg, the first American principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, and one of the most inspiring male dancers in the current ballet world. After OFA Dance Program Director Jill Johnson introduced him, Hallberg said, "I’m not here to impress you. So don’t try to impress me. We’re all here because we love to dance. So let’s just have fun."

Of course, as soon as he took his first tendu, I was impressed. Those arches! The length of his arms! Everything was clean, precise and "sang" with the music. As he explained his learning process to lengthen and improve his arabesque, I couldn’t help wonder at Hallberg’s modesty and continuous enthusiasm to refine his technique, even after all he has accomplished. While I tried to concentrate on my own technique, and, as he instructed, my breathing, I contemplated how incredible it was to have this kind of opportunity as a college undergraduate.

Whether or not the class was my best personal dancing, the energy in the room more than made up for it. Every eye was trained on Hallberg’s lines and soaring movement across the floor, trying to pick up every drop of information. I could sense my fellow students’ eagerness as we all tried to live up to the challenges he gave us. Especially when he demonstrated the grand allegro, jaws dropped. He absolutely levitated, and the grace in his upper body made it look completely effortless. He told us to "loosen the chains" and "just dance it," words of encouragement that are often lost in technique classes, but that make all the difference in how good the movement feels to the dancer.

The class was rounded off perfectly with a question-and-answer session. For me, the most inspiring moment came when he was asked why he chose to join the Bolshoi, and he answered that he knew he had to do it because it scared him. This is an important lesson, especially for anyone graduating from Harvard: Don't take the safe route in life, but do the thing that is most frightening.

"When I had taken the risk and knew I made the right decision, I felt so alive," he said. Hallberg’s class definitely left every student feeling alive.

[Caption: David Hallberg's master class advice was: "Let's just have fun." PHOTO: Liza Voll]