No Dancing Around It: He’s a Hero

At the podium, Gray Davis and his wife Cassandra (also an ABT dancer) with State Senator Brad Hoylman as he presents the NY State Liberty Medal and a Proclamation. Photo by Susie Morgan Taylor.

BY LEVAR ALONZO | His split-second decision to perform an act of well-choreographed athleticism saved a life — and earned this professional dancer accolades more meaningful than the most thunderous of curtain call applause.

“Gray Davis acted when others could not,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman at an Oct. 25 ceremony held at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. The senator was on hand to present Davis with the New York State Liberty Medal and a Proclamation declaring Oct. 25 “Gray Davis Appreciation Day” in New York’s 27th State Senate District.

“His selflessness in the face of danger symbolizes the very best of New York and sets an example for all of us,” Hoylman said, adding, “I am proud to call Gray a constituent and thrilled to bestow upon him our state’s highest civilian honor.”

Gray Davis with Hee Seo in the American Ballet Theatre’s “Thirteen Diversions.” Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

Davis, 31, a Chelsea resident and a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), stood in front of his fellow dancers, clearly humbled by the award.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” he said. “I am extremely honored. We here at the ABT are just dancers, but we are human beings first and that’s how we all should live.”

Shortly after 11 p.m. on the night of Sat., June 3, Davis, along with his mother and his wife, were at the 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue subway station, heading Downtown on their way home (his wife Cassandra, who is also a dancer with the ABT, had just finished performing at the Metropolitan Opera House).

When altercation broke out between a 58-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, the man was pushed onto the tracks. The victim, who hit his head during the fall, was taken to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. On Sept. 20, his attacker, Carolyn Mack, pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in the first degree. A sentence of four months’ jail and five years’ probation was handed down on Oct. 17, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

“I was looking around just waiting for someone else to do something but no one did. Other people were screaming to get help so I unconsciously just jumped onto the tracks to get the guy up,” Davis said. In recovery but still feeling the pinch from a herniated disk, he managed to lift the unconscious man to safety.

Cassandra Davis said her husband has always been a selfless person, whether helping little kids cross the street or just doing what he can for others.

“My first thought was for someone to get help. Then, when I looked down to the tracks, there’s Gray down they’re picking this man up,” she recalled.

In reference to Davis’ heroic act, Hoylman invoked the words of former ABT principal dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov — who famously said, “Dancers are made, not born.”

“I think,” Hoylman noted, “the same can be said for heroes… They seize a split-second moment, they embrace danger, selflessly, and they become role models for all of us.”

After receiving the award, Davis said that he would be going right back to preparing for that night’s show.

“We often ask ourselves what would we do if we were faced with this kind of decision. Gray asked, ‘Why is nobody doing anything?’ and then did what many of us couldn’t. I am immensely proud of him,” said Kevin McKenzie, ABT’s artistic director.

State Senator Brad Hoylman presented Davis with the NY State Liberty Medal, as well as a Proclamation declaring Oct. 25 “Gray Davis Appreciation Day” in NY’s 27th State Senate District. Photo by Susie Morgan Taylor.