New York Magazine

All the Way Back

David Hallberg spent a lifetime preparing to be the best male ballet dancer in the world. But he wasn’t prepared for his body to betray him.

ON NOVEMBER 4, 2015, David Hallberg posted a photograph of himself on Twitter, though the person in the photo did not much resemble the David Hallberg his thousands of followers knew. In the photo, Hallberg—a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and the first American to hold that title simultaneously at the renowned Bolshoi Ballet—sat hunched on a Chelsea stoop, holding a coffee cup and, out of frame, a cigarette. His head was shaved and his stare piercing; he looked a bit like Eminem. “Goodbye New York,” he wrote in the caption. “There’s some stuff I have to take care of once and for all.” The day after taking that photo, Hallberg flew to Australia with one suitcase, on a one-way ticket, unsure if he would ever dance again.

“Everyone was very worried,” Hallberg, 34, recalls. He’s sitting in his Chelsea apartment, one foot nonchalantly plunked inside a bucket full of ice. (“Oh, it’s no thing,” he assures me.) “Shaving my head was so cathartic. This is my

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