Audiences last spring at New York’s Joyce Theater could have been forgiven for doing a double take when a nearly naked dancer sprinted across the stage before the start of Larry Keigwin’s Runaway. “Larry egged me on,” says dancer Kristina Hanna. “It was meant to look like backstage at a runway show. There was a girl onstage getting her hair done, and he had me run across as if I was looking for my costume.”


Hanna—who Keigwin hired right out of Juilliard two years ago to join Keigwin + Company—commands attention even fully clothed. Spunky and elfin, the 24-year-old radiates energy, her movements fluid yet punchy. “She has a nice balance between a percussive, rhythmic attack and an effortless ease,” says Keigwin.


Directors and teachers praise Hanna’s physical and intellectual energy. “She’s a real dance thinker,” says Ara Guzelimian, a Juilliard dean and one of Hanna’s mentors. Ironically, Hanna’s dance life started with a fluke: “When I was 4, my best friend went to take a dance class, and I just happened to go along,” she says. It may have been the only accident in her career. Terri Newman, a teacher at The Dance Shoppe studio who worked with Hanna for a decade in Waterford, Michigan, notes from the start that Hanna had a deep commitment. “She was very, very focused at a very early age,” says Newman. “She never waited for me to give her a correction; she took any correction given to anyone in the class.”


Newman’s was a competition studio, and Hanna excelled, piling up awards. But Newman stresses that her ability went beyond technical prowess. “She always understood there was more to it than just kicks and turns.” The competition world taught Hanna a range of styles, but it was not until she arrived at Michigan’s Interlochen Arts Academy that she got her first exposure to modern dance. She was named a Presidential Scholar for the Arts in 2005; she also  studied with Laura Glenn at the White Mountain Summer Dance Festival.


Hanna entered Juilliard after Interlochen. It proved a different experience. “My first year was really, really, really hard,” she says. Teachers had students start over from scratch. In one class, she recalls being taught how to roll over; in another they relearned tendus.


But Juilliard also gave Hanna the opportunity to sample a wide variety of choreographers, including Ohad Naharin and Mark Morris. “Some things are like a second skin, and some don’t fit,” she says. “But you realize it’s all valid experience.”


Keigwin came to work with the students her senior year. “On day one, Larry had us improvise in a circle to different qualities he’d call out,” she says. “And I just thought: If I could do this every day, it would be like play.”


Keigwin, meanwhile, was impressed by both her movement quality and her onstage presence. “We did a piece where everybody had a separate entrance,” he says. ”And of everyone there, her entrance got applause. And I thought, ‘Ah, note to self.’ ”


Hanna sent him a Facebook message; he responded with a dinner invitation. “I knew her dancing; I could see her work ethic,” he says. “I wanted to see how she was at the dinner table. Someone can be a great dancer, but you don’t want to work with them unless they’re a great person.” By the end of dinner, Keigwin had offered her a place in his company.


For Hanna, it was the fulfillment of a dream.“I wanted to be in a smaller company, and I wanted not to be a cog in a wheel,” she says. “I wanted to be making a contribution.” She loves that in rehearsals, the company huddles around the laptop to offer suggestions. “I love that nothing’s off limits,” she says. “We’re redefining dance.”


Rachel Elson is an editor at CBS



Photo of Kristina Hanna in Runaway by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Keigwin


Latest Posts

Clockwise from top left: Photo by Loreto Jamlig, Courtesy Ladies of Hip-Hop; Wikimedia Commons; Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Photo by Will Mayer for Better Half Productions, Courtesy ABT

The 10 Biggest Dance Stories of 2019

What were the dance moments that defined 2019? The stories that kept us talking, week after week? According to our top-clicked articles of the year, they ranged from explorations of dance medicine and dance history, takedowns of Lara Spencer and companies who still charge dancers to audition, and, of course, our list of expert tips on how to succeed in dance today.

We compiled our 10 biggest hits of the year, and broke down why we think they struck a chord:

Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Nichols

I Am a Black Dancer Who Was Dressed Up in Blackface to Perform in La Bayadère

On Instagram this week, Misty Copeland reposted a picture of two Russian ballerinas covered head to toe in black, exposing the Bolshoi's practice of using blackface in the classical ballet La Bayadère. The post has already received over 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments, starting a long overdue conversation.

Comments have been pouring in from every angle imaginable: from history lessons on black face, to people outside of the ballet world expressing disbelief that this happens in 2019, to castigations of Copeland for exposing these young girls to the line of fire for what is ultimately the Bolshoi's costuming choice, to the accusations that the girls—no matter their cultural competence—should have known better.

I am a black dancer, and in 2003, when I was 11 years old, I was dressed up in blackface to perform in the Mariinsky Ballet's production of La Bayadère.


Here's the First Trailer for the "In the Heights" Movie

Lights up on Washington Heights—because the trailer for the movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical In the Heights has arrived. It's our first look into Lin-Manuel Miranda's latest venture into film—because LMM isn't stopping at three Tony awards, a Grammy award, and an Emmy.

Enter Our Video Contest