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Australian Ballet's new artistic director reveals his must-visit Melbourne spots

Written by
Stephen A Russell

American Ballet Theater principal David Hallberg has danced with everyone from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow to London’s Royal Ballet, but as of next year, he'll hang up his slippers, leave New York and head to Melbourne.

The supremely talented 37-year-old will take up the role of artistic director at the Australian Ballet when 20-year incumbent David McAllister stands down next year, after beating out some 50-plus candidates in a worldwide hunt. Speaking to Time Out while still jetlagged after flying in for the announcement at the Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre, Hallberg tells us there’s one thing guaranteed to keep him going strong. "I'll go for a coffee at Dukes first and foremost," he says. "It's an institution, and you've got to start with coffee in Melbourne."

While looking at Melbourne’s shimmering towers in a cab racing to his hotel from the airport last night, Hallberg, who's been a recurring guest of the Australian Ballet for a decade now, says he felt he was coming home. "I've always loved Melbourne. It's one of my top cities in the world, and I'm not just saying that. It feels so right."

Australian ballet artistic director David Hallberg
David Hallberg, incoming artistic director of the Australian Ballet
Photograph: Dan Boud

Acknowledging that at 37 he's keenly aware his dancing days are almost done, Hallberg's excited about embracing his first artistic director gig for a company he adores. "One thing I really love about Aus Ballet is that they have their own individual culture and style that sets them apart from other companies around the world, and that's much like Australian culture,” he says. "There's an inclusiveness and warmth, and a sense of community."

He's looking forward to expanding that sense of community, attracting new audiences to the Australian Ballet, both at home and away. "I really appreciate Australian audiences, but I think the world needs to see the Australian Ballet more, too. There's a fervent dance audience that will be inspired by seeing the company." 

And it's not just Dukes coffee Hallberg's excited about revisiting when he settles in Melbourne. "I love the Tivoli Road Bakery in South Yarra, David's Chinese restaurant in Prahran, and the Windsor Hotel's great for a beer."

But the one thing he’s looking forward to most is frequenting South Melbourne Market on the reg again. "I love the ritual of going there on the weekend, getting fresh everything, foraging the groceries for the week. There’s something so special about the markets here in Melbourne."

Love the Australian Ballet? Go see electrifying new contemporary triple bill Volt at Arts Centre Melbourne

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