NYC's Bravest Hero Is A Man In Tights

Ballet dancer's swan dive onto subway tracks rescues a passenger—and redefines our view of manhood.

As a member of the corps de ballet at the American Ballet Theatre, 31-year-old New York City resident Gray Davis is used to lifting his fellow dancers high into the air. But on Saturday night, Davis used his considerable athletic ability to save the life of stranger who had been pushed onto the subway tracks—and his bravery serves as a reminder to the rest of us to check our assumptions about men in tights.

“At first I waited for somebody else to jump down there. People were screaming to get help. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down,” Davis told The New York Times on Sunday. The unidentified man on the tracks was unconscious, so Davis put his ballet training to work lifting the man’s dead weight up to the platform. Other people on the platform pulled the man to safety.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]People were screaming to get help. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down[/quote]

The incident happened at the 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue station, where Gray was waiting with his mother and his wife, fellow ballet dancer Cassandra Trenary. They observed a heated argument happening on the platform between a man and a woman, and Gray dashed up the subway steps to get help at the ticket booth. There was no one there, so he ran back down the steps and, discovering that the man had been shoved onto the tracks, decided to take matters into his own hands.

As Davis’ actions display, ballet dancers have as much strength as macho-seeming football players—and some football players credit ballet with keeping them in top shape. But, the legendary Mikhail Baryshnikov, who played Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend on Sex and the City, aside, guys who can pirouette and leap across a stage are often stereotyped as weak and effeminate—and are subject to being bullied in school. Much of the cultural derision of male ballet dancers stems from homophobia and the belief in the United States that guys who grand jeté in a skin-tight costume while wearing makeup are automatically gay.

Imagine if Davis had quit dancing as a kid because of the harassment male dancers face, and decided to pursue a more stereotypically manly sport instead. Would he have had enough upper body strength and flexibility—the kind honed by years of ballet training—to hoist a man to safety on Saturday night? Not only that, would he have been able to save his own life?

After he lifted the unconscious man to safety, Davis, who could hear a train coming, had to get himself up onto the platform, too. “I never realized how high [the platform] was,“ Davis told the Times. “Luckily, I’m a ballet dancer, so I swung my leg up.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people, other than ballet dancers, who can simply fling their leg up onto a subway platform and climb up instead of being pulled to safety. Davis told the Times that the whole experience was terrifying. “I don’t know if I had time to process it until I saw my wife coming down crying—then I realized it was scary.”

via Douglas Muth / Flickr

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