David Hallberg made history when he became the first American to become a principal dancer for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2011. In his Guest DJ set, he chooses artists that have helped him bring his own modern energy into works of classic ballet, and talks about how techno music and raves guided him to find an outlet for the stresses that come with the strict lifestyle of a ballet dancer. He will be in New York performing with the American Ballet Theater and the Bolshoi Ballet from June 12th to July 26th.
More Info: http://davidhallberg.com/
1. Dinah Washington - What A Difference A Day Makes
2. Robyn - Dancing On My Own
3. Snap! - Rhythm Is A Dancer
4. Nina Simone - The Other Woman
5. Bach - Partita No. 3 in E major
Anne Litt : Hi, I’m Anne Litt and I’m here with David Hallberg. He’s a principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre and was the first American to become a principal dancer with the internationally renowned Bolshoi Ballet, starting in 2011. The New York Times calls him “the most princely male dancer ever produced by the United States.” And today we’ll be playing excerpts of songs he selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. It is such an honor to welcome you David.
David Hallberg: It’s a pleasure to be here! I’m just thinking that some of these songs aren’t so princely. But you know...there's always many sides to a prince, I think.
AL: Absolutely. You’ve really picked a wonderful, diverse collection of songs and I’d love to start us off with Dina Washington “What a Difference a Day Makes”.
DH: If you think of it literally, what a difference a day makes. I mean, what a difference a day really does make. We can never go back in the past but there’s always that split moment that sometimes changes everything. I feel like in movies they’ve portrayed that so well and personally everyone has that moment. Your life just takes a turn for something completely different and for me, obviously, that reminds me of my move to Moscow. It completely changed my life. It was a huge risk when I moved to Moscow. I didn’t know what to expect. It was a huge sea of black that I didn’t know if it were hot, or if it were shark infested. I didn’t really know, but I dove in head first and I have absolutely no regrets.
Song: Dinah Washington – What a Difference a Day Makes
AL: Up next, you chose something completely on the other end of the spectrum. It’s Robyn, the song is “Dancing On My Own.” What is it about this song?
DH: Robyn, as an artist, is someone I greatly respect. I think because she isn’t Beyoncé, she isn’t as big as Lady Gaga, but she is such a pop artist of our time. She creates songs that are so “of the moment” and they date very quickly. I read an interview with her that said “I am a pop artist and what that means to me is taking full advantage of the exact moment that the culture is in.” It’s sort of the greatest definition of pop culture I’ve ever heard.
Song: Robyn –“Dancing On My Own”
DH: You always have this moment where you are in a club or you’re at a bar and you’re just completely on your own. You’re having your own moment. And when I was a kid, I went to raves and I fell in love with techno. I would just have these blissful moments as a precarious 15-year-old just listening to amazing music all by myself and just dancing like crazy. It was my huge outlet from the strict ballet class I was in all day. I’ve always needed a balance, and what more of a balance than raves to ballet?
AL: Now talk about a song that was of the moment, Snap!’s “Rhythm Is a Dancer.” Tell me where this comes from.
DH: There are always those songs that you remember exactly where you were. I started out doing jazz and tap when I started dancing. And I remember “Rhythm is a Dancer” was a song in my jazz class that we did stretches to and we would get going, get energized, get stretched out so this song. In 1991, or , or whenever this song was at its absolute peak, we were just enraptured and we thought the beat was so fresh. Techno was just blooming! I just thought it was the coolest thing that had been created. It’s amazing to look back to these songs.
Song: Snap! – “Rhythm Is A Dancer”
AL: David Halberg is our guest DJ today and now we’re going to take a little bit of a left. You’ve chosen Nina Simone “The Other Woman.”
DH: Nina Simone, more so than the song, I have to say. Everyone has felt like the other, maybe not woman, but the other something at one point or another. That’s just life, that’s just something I guess we have to get through individually, but Nina Simone is an artist that is so individual. She really was her own deal and I think as an artist and as a dancer, I question that every day in my work, you know, the individuality in my work. I’m influenced by so many different artists and Nina Simone, if you hear her sing, especially during this song there’s such an effectiveness to the way she portrays this song. It’s so melancholic, it’s so solitary. And, there’s this beautiful part, kind of one-minute, forty-seconds into it where she just sort of wails at this note and it’s so off key but it’s so beautiful because it’s so individual and I‘ve such appreciation for that.
Song: Nina Simone - “The Other Woman”
AL: The emotion in that moment is overwhelming.
DH: It’s sort of like you don’t really care what they’re doing when it’s really coming from such an honest place and this song embodies that so well.
AL: I’m here with David Hallberg on KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. David, I’m going to let you introduce your last piece.
DH: I chose the last piece, which is Bach Partita No. 3 in E major. It’s the preludio and if people are put-off by classical music, I think this is a clear example of how I think classical music can be so unbelievably exciting and uplifting. I think Itzhak Perlman, especially this recording. He does exactly what I try and do as a classical artist. He is a classical violinist, this art for has been around for centuries. And, if you’re portraying a piece like Bach, it’s so easy to feel like ‘hundreds of violinists have done this before; I’m just an interpreter of this piece and not a creator of this piece.’ But, this recording just shows how fresh and how modern Bach can be. It’s really such a beautiful, beautiful example of the validity and modernity of Bach.
Song: Bach- “Partita No. 3 in E major”
AL: You perform pieces that have been around for a very long time. Do you try to bring something different to every performance?
DH: Things are passed down to us. Swan Lake is passed down to us; Giselle is passed down to us. So many people have done Swan Lake. What’s been my challenge as a ballet dancer is how I do Swan Lake-not how Mikhail Baryshnikov did Swan Lake. I can’t copy his interpretation; I have to make my interpretation individual. And I think that’s the question of many classical artists, whether they’re violinists, cellists, opera singers, ballet dancers. How you interpret characters and operas and ballets in a modern context? That’s one of my greatest questions of life.
AL: David, I want to thank you so much for joining us today on KCRW.com
DH: Such a pleasure, thank you.