BWW Interviews: COME FLY AWAY, an Interview with Stephen Hanna

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COME FLY AWAY featuring Frank Sinatra’s seductive vocals is coming to Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Belk Theater, May 1-6, 2012,  conceived, choreographed and directed by Tony Award winner,  Twyla Tharp.  Tickets are on sale now at Blumenthal Box Office: (704)472-1000.

I had the opportunity to interview dancer, Stephen Hanna, who comes to the Charlotte stage in the role of ‘Sid’ in COME FLY AWAY.

In thinking back, I have never met a ballet dancer I didn’t like. I don’t know if it’s because of the years they had to put in to perfect their craft, keeping them humble, or their personalities are similar, but Stephen Hanna was a delight to interview. He was energetic, enthusiastic and most of all kind. 

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hanna studied at the School of American Ballet (SAB) at the young age of twelve. At SAB, Hanna was awarded the Mae L. Wein award for outstanding promise. He appeared with the Broadway show BILLY ELLIOT, as an adult ‘Billy’ and has now joined the touring cast of COME FLY AWAY. I interviewed him while he was on a short break.

LAW: Where are you right now?

SH: I’m in Washington D.C. at the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center.

LAW: What started you dancing?

SH: I was three, or four [years old,] the woman down the block, Ilene Shade, taught dance in Pittsburg.

LAW: When did you go to New York?

SH: When I was twelve I went to New York and I took a summer course. I studied at the School of American Ballet Theater and I stayed.

LAW: Did your parents go with you?

SH: No, I lived in the dorms at the school and I went to the Professional Children’s School. My parents came down from Pennsylvania to visit.  At sixteen, I thought I would give regular teenage life a try, so I went back home and spent the summer bagging groceries at a local store. That didn’t last long.

LAW: What was your first professional job?

SH: I was seventeen and I performed in the New York City Ballet in SLEEPING BEAUTY at the David Koch Theater in Lincoln Center.

LAW: What was your most memorable job?

SH: The closing of BILLY ELLIOT on January 8th. The show ran over by half-an-hour because the audience was applauding for so long. I started with the show in 2008 and in 2010 I came back for two years.

LAW: Can you tell me about COME FLY AWAY? 

SH: It’s a great show. It’s about four couples. My character, ‘Sid’ is a cool guy. He acts like he’s in control. His girlfriend is ‘Babe.’ They are both egotistical. They both want power and control, which comes through in the dance. There are twenty-eight Sinatra songs, along with a fourteen piece live orchestra on stage.

LAW: How do you emotionally connect to the story and your character in dance?

SH: Costume helps a lot… The choreography is very strong. I am one-upping her [Babe] and throwing her around. That helps. I have to be as cool as possible [as Sid.]

LAW: What is your favorite number in the show?

SH: “Teach Me Tonight.” It’s the most expressive. It’s where the sex and tension are the highest.

LAW: How was it working with Twyla Tharp?

SH: It’s great. I was the replacement in the middle of the tour, so I didn’t work with her from the beginning. She came one weekend and observed. I work with Resident Director, Ron Todorowski. She saw the performance and gave him notes.

LAW: Why do you think you were cast you for this musical?

SH: I can connect with the style and period of Fred Estaire and Gene Kelly,.. and my [physical] carriage. 

LAW: Where will the tour take you?

SH: I’ll be going to Japan. I was there before, but I am going for four and a half weeks. I am looking forward to submersing myself,… where I am.  July and August are going to be great and awesome.

LAW: What has been your best experience with the show?

SH: Freedom in dance. Every night is fun. I have a great time and I enjoy so much. And Meredith Miles, who plays ‘Babe,’ is fantastic.

LAW: Where is home?

SH: New York City in the East Village.

LAW: What is your favorite thing to do when you are there?

SH: Rest… Yeah.

LAW: Have you ever been to Charlotte Before?

SH: No, not yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

LAW: What’s the best experience you’ve had on the road?

SH: Performing at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg [Russia.] That was the best and I performed in Israel two times. Being in Israel was also a great experience.

LAW: What was the worst?

SH: There haven’t been any [worsts,] just easy breezy.

LAW: Have you found a difference in the way audiences react to you depending on where you are?

SH: The show is very sexually charged, so yes, audiences do react differently. In Florida,... in Miami at the Arsht Center, the audience loved the show so much. They were an older crowd and they grew up with Sinatra music.

LAW: Is there anything you would like to add?

SH: No, I’m looking forward to performing in Charlotte.



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