Dancer Voices

From the Studio to the Broadway Stage: Tyler Hanes Shares His Artistic Journey

Susan Stripling Photography, Courtesy Tyler Hanes

Dance was the first language I responded to as a toddler. I loved watching it, being around it and imitating it. I was practically raised in the studio because my older sisters were always there; so, naturally, dance was in the cards for me. Turning 6 years old was a monumental birthday because it meant I was finally old enough to take that ballet/ tap combo class I had been eyeing for some time.

Susan Stripling Photography, Courtesy Tyler Hanes

But Miss Barbara refused to let me take it! She didn't know what to do with me. A boy? In a studio full of girls? She said it would be too hard since ballet for boys isn't the same as it is for girls (excuse me, Miss Barbara?). No. I couldn't accept her decision. I begged and begged and begged. And it worked. There I was, in my ballet/ tap combo class, no bigger than a minnow in a pond. Flat top. Patent leather taps. Black ballet slippers. The only boy. And I was as happy as a pig in ****!

Every day, I couldn't wait for the school bell to ring so my four sisters and I could load into my mom's van and drive an hour to the dance studio. I lived a double life. During school hours, I posed as this wannabe soccer jock/skater boy and had to hide the fact that I was a dancer in order to avoid being bullied. After school, my true self was set free the minute I stepped into the studio. Free of judgment and the perils of puberty. Free to be who I really was and encouraged to explore and develop that side of myself.

Susan Stripling Photography, Courtesy Tyler Hanes

What started off as a hobby soon proved to be my life's work, taking on every form, from performing professionally to choreographing to teaching, and sharing my love of dance with new generations. In this way, dance has shaped me, developing my character and self-discipline, as well as my talent.

Throughout my life, the one thing that has never changed has been my love for dance. It challenges and pushes me beyond my limits. It has fed my soul and broken my heart. It is constantly reinventing itself within me. It has helped me realize my full potential as an artist and as a man. Getting lost in dance is by far my favorite pastime. When the music marries the movement, a roller coaster of emotions takes over and something otherworldly comes bursting through me. I love to dance because I have a hunger to get to know myself better, and when I am dancing, I am my best self.

The "Merde" bag. Courtesy Scenery

Jennifer Kahn knew the theater industry could do better. As a professional stage manager for 17 years she worked on regional, off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Nearly each time a show closed, something unsettling happened: "I would watch them throw away our shows. All of the beautiful artwork by my friends in the paint shop would go in the trash." The elaborate backdrops? Gone.

But she had an idea: What if the material used in the backdrops and legs could be upcycled into something new? And what if theater lovers could literally keep a piece of a beloved show?

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Sponsored by Harlequin Floors
Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.

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Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Health & Body
Sara Mearns in the gym. Photo by Kyle Froman.

New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.

"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.

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