NY State Senator Brad Hoylman and ABT dancer Gray Davis at the award ceremony. Photo by Chava Lansky.

ABT Dancer Receives the Highest Civilian Honor for Saving a Man's Life

"I'm here because we have a hero in our midst," said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman before American Ballet Theatre's company class this morning. He was addressing ABT corps dancer Gray Davis, who you may remember saved the life of a man who was pushed onto the subway tracks this summer. The Senator was there to present Davis with the New York State Liberty Medal, the highest honor bestowed by a member of the State Senate.

Company members, ABT staff and donors, and reporters were present in the studio at Lincoln Center's Koch Theater this morning where the company is in residence for their fall season. Artistic director Kevin McKenzie introduced Senator Hoylman, who retold the story of Davis' act of heroism before placing the medal around his neck. "You know, one of your fellow greats, Mikhail Baryshnikov said, "dancers are made, not born,' and I think the same can be said of heroes," said Senator Hoylman. "Heroes are made, not born. They seize a split-second moment, they embrace danger selflessly and they become role models for all of us."

After the crowd broke into applause, Senator Hoylman called up Davis' wife, ABT soloist Cassandra Trenary to join him at the podium. Wiping tears from her eyes, Trenary stood with Davis while he shared a few words in his quiet and reserved manner. "We're dancers, but we're human beings first," he said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."


We touched base with Trenary afterwards to ask how she has processed this event over the past few months. "It's funny, it feels like a distant dream. Every time somebody recognizes Gray I'm like, 'oh yeah, that happened, that's so crazy.' But of course I'm very proud of him, and I know that if it were to happen again he'd do the same thing. It's just the kind of person that he is and always has been."

Davis' actions certainly prove wrong those who think male dancers are wimpy; his combination of strength and flexibility allowed him to nimbly jump onto the tracks and pull both himself and the unconscious man up to safety. We asked Trenary if she thought Davis' dance training made this possible. "Probably—I mean I don't know who else could lift somebody that heavy up to the platform," she said.

Congratulations to Davis on this immense honor—check out our full video coverage of the event below.


Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Alexandra McMaster

Start Your Dance Day With This Delicious Berry Breakfast Crisp Recipe

When it comes to breakfast, I want it to be easy and convenient but still taste delicious. My Berry Breakfast Crisp is just that. You can bake the crisp on the weekend as meal prep, then enjoy it throughout the week cold or warmed in the microwave. It freezes well, too!

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Liam Scarlett with Marianela Nuñez and Ryoichi Hirano during a rehearsal of his Swan Lake at The Royal Ballet. Andrej Uspenski, Courtesy ROH

Choreographer Liam Scarlett Has Died

Over the weekend, news broke that 35-year-old choreographer Liam Scarlett, a former artist in residence at The Royal Ballet, died suddenly at his home in England. "It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic, untimely death of our beloved Liam," Scarlett's family said in a brief statement. "At this difficult time for all of our family, we would ask that you respect our privacy to enable us to grieve our loss."

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks