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Dallas Cowboys Running Back Makes Dance Debut

April 11, 1988 GMT

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) _ Dallas Cowboys running back Herschel Walker, best known for his blistering speed and bruising bursts through defensive lines, made his ballet debut Sunday to the cheers of a fan-filled crowd.

About 1,300 people attended the season finale of the Fort Worth Ballet’s ″story series″ - well above the usual numbers for a Sunday afternoon performance, officials said.

The Heisman Trophy winner took part in ″Webern Pieces,″ a modern ballet performed with the Fort Worth company’s principal dancers, Maria Terezia Balogh and Joseph Malbrough.

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The muscular Walker said tackling the dance moves was not easy.

″When you play football, you have a helmet to hide behind and nobody can see your eyes, but it’s a lot different out there on the stage,″ Walker said. ″In football, you can improvise if you make a mistake, but if you do it here everyone knows it.″

The audience broke into laughter and applause when Walker and Malbrough ended their piece in the three-point stance Walker uses while in the Cowboys backfield.

However, most were more impressed with Walker’s being on stage than with the dance moves of a running back who took a single college ballet course.

″I kind of wish he would’ve danced a little more, but I do admire him for making that kind of contribution,″ D’Lana Anderson of Fort Worth said of Walker’s slow-paced moves.

During the 25-minute performance, the 223-pound Walker, appearing shirtless, often stood still or slowly walked through a series of moves with Ms. Balogh, once lifting her 115-pound body above his head and gently passing her over his back.

″The ballet depends upon extraordinary physical beings, but this is even more extraordinary than one should expect,″ poet and author William Burford of Fort Worth said of Walker’s 50-inch chest and 19 1/2-inch neck. ″It’s certainly not a ballet dancer’s physique.″

The crowd, however, was filled with many who said they had never attended a ballet, including many young boys who came to see their football hero. Several rushed down darkened aisles toward the stage when Walker first appeared and a crowd of children seeking autographs crowded stage doors after the show.

″This was a wonderful gesture on Mr. Walker’s part and he was successful in bringing people out here today who wouldn’t have otherwise come to the ballet,″ Artistic Director Paul Mejia said.

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″It was exactly what I wanted, and more,″ he said. ″I’m very proud of Herschel for what he’s done here.″

Performing with a football player was not a new experience for Mejia and the two dancers. All three were involved in the same performance at the Chicago City Ballet with Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault.