From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Ballet Dancer, The Man On The Tracks, And The Duty To Rescue

That’s our hero, Gray Davis, in the bottom photo. The top photo is just a suggestion if he decides to go pro…

[This story is several months old, but I missed it.  Luckily my friend, long-time Ethics Alarms reader and commenter Ethics Bob did not, and sent it to me. Then I missed his e-mail. Until today.]

Ethics Alarms often writes about the duty to rescue, but has also often discussed the reasonable limitations on that duty. You are ethically required to do what you can to prevent a tragedy if you have the power to do so, and instant presence of mind to do so. There is no ethical duty to act like Batman, unless, of course, you are Batman.

Gray Davis is Batman.

Well, that’s not quite right.

Let’s call him “Ballet Man,”

In June, a 58-year-old homeless man fell or was pushed onto the subway tracks at the 72nd Street Broadway-Seventh Avenue station in Manhattan. People began screaming and shouting for someone to help. Davis, 31, told reporters that “At first I waited for somebody else to jump down there…. But nobody jumped down. So I jumped down.” Actually he leaped down. Davis is a ballet  dancer with the American Ballet Theater. He had not performed that night, a Saturday, because he was recovering from a herniated disk. He had just watched his wife, soloist Cassandra Trenary, dance in both the matinee and the evening performances of “The Golden Cockerel.”

After Gray’s graceful assemblé from the platform onto the tracks, he lifted up the man, following a temps leve, although the carry itself was not standard and had several technical flaws by ABT standards, forgivable because ballerinas are not typically dead weight, and unconscious homeless men are not typically ballerinas. Gray deposited his temporary partner on the platform, where he was immediately attended to by others.

Then the dancer heard a train in the distance, and for the first time realized how high it was to the platform from the tracks. “Luckily, I’m a ballet dancer,” he said. Luckily for everyone. Lifting his let up over his head is a breeze.

Ballet dancers are much-maligned, and increasingly unappreciated as artists despite the fact that they are among the most skilled athletes in the world. Batman would have to have ballet training; Daredevil too. Unfortunately, they aren’t real. Graey Davis, Ballet Man, is real, and when a life was at stake and everyone else was calling for someone else to he a hero, he was one, because he knew he had the skills to pull it off.




Pointer: Ethics Bob

13 thoughts on “From The Ethics Alarms Lost Files: The Ballet Dancer, The Man On The Tracks, And The Duty To Rescue

    • I thought most people were familiar with this incident, and the reaction to it. The lack of mirror neurones is not unusual.

      Those I find admirable are psychopaths who make the decision to act as if they had empathy out of moral concerns. They are also rather scary, but exactly the kind of people you want in emergencies.

        • He was quoting the article I linked to. I agree that line is unfair–Trump was most likely joking about committing sexual assault, not admitting to having done so. But your comment doesn’t make sense, as Bill Clinton has never admitted to committing sexual assault, nor has he been caught on tape joking about it.

  1. Thanks for posting this, Jack. Gray’s act is almost incomprehensible to me: who among us knows what he would do in that situation? The ballet world has many attributes to admire. I’ve recently become a fan of Youth America Grand Prix, a worldwide competition for aspiring dancers, age 9-19. I enjoy the remarkable dancing that the kids do, even at ages 9 or 10, but the most amazing thing about the competition is the way the kids pull for each other, screaming when one pulls off a perfect set of fouettes, or the like.

    Would the Redskins fans scream with admiration for a spectacular pass completion by the Cowboys? I think not. But ballet is more welcoming toward competitors.

    • I’m overall not a very artsy kind of person but I am mesmerized by watching ballet. It is the only dance I would really go out of my way to see. I think it resonates with me because I am a somewhat OCD person and ballet is so precise and formalized. I believe this is the same reason that my favorite aspect of figure skating was the compulsory figures. Anyway, my congratulations to Mr. Davis.

  2. There are usually shallow hollows under platforms. They are filthy and smell terrible. If you aren’t an athlete, you can take refuge there along with the person being rescued when the train arrives.

    It doesn’t take strength, or courage, just the ability to retain a cool head.

  3. Anybody who thinks ballet dancers aren’t incredible athletes needs to go to a professional ballet class and see when they do during an average day of four or five hours of work. Their risk of injury alone is phenomenal.

    • Here’s a comment from the Pennsylvania ballet:
      A Facebook user recently commented that the Eagles had “played like they were wearing tutus!!!”
      Our response:
      “With all due respect to the Eagles, let’s take a minute to look at what our tutu wearing women have done this month:
      By tomorrow afternoon, the ballerinas that wear tutus at Pennsylvania Ballet will have performed The Nutcracker 27 times in 21 days. Some of those women have performed the Snow scene and the Waltz of the Flowers without an understudy or second cast. No ‘second string’ to come in and spell them when they needed a break. When they have been sick they have come to the theater, put on make up and costume, smiled and performed. When they have felt an injury in the middle of a show there have been no injury timeouts. They have kept smiling, finished their job, bowed, left the stage, and then dealt with what hurts. Some of these tutu wearers have been tossed into a new position with only a moments notice. That’s like a cornerback being told at halftime that they’re going to play wide receiver for the second half, but they need to make sure that no one can tell they’ve never played wide receiver before. They have done all of this with such artistry and grace that audience after audience has clapped and cheered (no Boo Birds at the Academy) and the Philadelphia Inquirer has said this production looks “better than ever”.
      So no, the Eagles have not played like they were wearing tutus. If they had, Chip Kelly would still be a head coach and we’d all be looking forward to the playoffs.”
      Happy New Year!

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