Ballet Stars

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

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

"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.


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