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 Conversation
Career Advice
Tony Testa leads a rehearsal during his USC New Movement Residency. Photo by Mary Mallaney/Courtesy USC

The massive scale of choreographing an Olympic opening ceremony really has no equivalent. The hundreds of performers, the deeply historic rituals and the worldwide audience and significance make it a project like no other.

Just consider the timeline: For most live TV events like award shows, choreographers usually take a month or two to put everything together. For the Olympics, the process can take up to four years.

But this kind of challenge is exactly what Los Angeles choreographer Tony Testa is looking for. He's currently creating a submission to throw his hat in the ring to choreograph for Beijing's 2022 Winter Games.

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Cover Story
Photo by Jayme Thornton

In a studio high above Lincoln Center, Taylor Stanley is rehearsing a solo from Jerome Robbins' Opus 19/The Dreamer. As the pianist plays Prokofiev's plangent melody, Stanley begins to move, his arms forming crisp, clean lines while his upper body twists and melts from one position to the next.

All you see is intention and arrival, without a residue of superfluous movement. The ballet seems to depict a man searching for something, struggling against forces within himself. Stanley doesn't oversell the struggle—in fact he's quite low-key—but the clarity with which he executes the choreography draws you in.

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