Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet Tanya Haglund. Tanya recently made her Broadway debut in the ensemble Head Over Heels at The Hudson Theatre which closes January 6th and will be continue living her Broadway when she performs in the ensemble of The Broadway Revival of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate which will begin previews on February 14th at Studio 54. Before that Tanya performed in the national tour of Chicago. It was a pleasure to interview this fantastic dancer in between rehearsing one show and performing in another.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
I played competitive soccer for the first half of my childhood even though I would choreograph little dances to my favorite songs in my free time as a young girl. After seeing a dance concert at my school when I was 11 years old, I turned to my mom and said, "I want to do that." Throughout middle and high school, I was asked what I wanted to do after college, and I truly could not think of a better path to pursue other than performing. No other career came close in my mind--a job that combined artistry and athleticism was the challenging and worthwhile lifestyle I wanted to live. I went to college for concert dance performance, but took voice lessons simply because I liked singing! The transition from concert dance to musical theater felt like entering an unknown world until I realized it was a job that included all the expressions I enjoy: dance, song, and communicating through story.
Where did you study? Do you have any mentors that stand out that helped you become the performer you are today
In North Carolina, I trained at an incredible dance studio called Cary Ballet Conservatory. The training in ballet, modern, and jazz that I received as a young dancer was quite remarkable. For college, I went to University of Arizona for a BFA in Dance where I was able to fine-tune my technique and work with experienced faculty members. I spent my summers dancing at intensives at Hubbard Street in Chicago and Keigwin + Co in New York which gave me tastes of complex repertoire and how to collaborate in choreography. Currently, I still train with Kevin Murphy at his NYC Vocal Studio as well as take dance and acting classes all over the city to continue learning. In high school, my jazz and modern teacher, Darra Gasper, truly prepared me for the professional environment. She taught me how to fearlessly enter a rehearsal and to be open to try anything. One of my ballet teachers, Leah Copley Summers, was key in pushing me to train hard and to build stamina. When I was on tour with Chicago (the musical), I had the opportunity to perform in her hometown; it was very special to have one of my ballet teachers see me performing professionally.
You are an amazing dancer and are married to an amazing dancer in Lars Nelson! How does it feel to have a partner in life who can and will completely understand the things you must go through as a stage performer?
I feel so privileged to be married to Lars! He is an incredible ballet dancer, and I look forward to and respect his opinion when he comes to see my shows. One of my greatest joys in life is seeing him perform at Lincoln Center with New York City Ballet since I know how much work it takes to perform at such a high level. We both have the same schedule, and it is the most wonderful thing to come home to a partner in life who understands the feeling of being physically and emotionally spent at the end of the day after rehearsals and shows. While I do enjoy that we work in slightly different workplaces--he is a dancer with a ballet company while I move from show to show in theater--I secretly hope that our professional lives cross one day. It is also hilarious to be able to have jokes between us that involve a random gargouillade or purposely bad fouetté turns in the kitchen while we cook.
Are there any shows in your career that will always stick out and be near and dear to your heart?
The summer I spent at the MUNY in St. Louis was a magical time. It was such an innocent time of exploration when I was discovering musical theater, and I was learning and growing around incredible artists in beautiful shows like My Fair Lady and Susan Stroman's Oklahoma! I specifically remember sitting at lunch with our entire cast and creative team at picnic tables, and while I was looking around I said to myself,"I want these people to be my coworkers!" It is a full circle moment having cast members from that summer in my next show, Kiss Me, Kate at Roundabout.
What advice do you have for young performers?
Always look for opportunities to learn and grow, especially in the areas where you feel the weakest. Whether you are scared to set foot in a dance class or the singing part of an audition scares you the most, lean into those areas and work hard. Not only will working on things that scare you make you a well-rounded performer, it will, more importantly, shape you into a humble, open artist who can give abundantly more in your rehearsals, on stage, and to the people surrounding you.
If you would like to learn more about Tanya’s Broadway debut show in Head Over Heels please visit – www.headoverheelsthemusical.com and to learn about her next gig, the upcoming revival of Kiss Me Kate please visit – www.roundabouttheatre.org
Check out Tanya and the Ensemble of the Kiss Me Kate revival rehearse “Too Darn Hot” - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AI00imr_F5Q