Artist Spotlight: Meet PBT’s New Male Dancers
As they prepare for their main-stage debut in The Sleeping Beauty next month, PBT is welcoming three new male company members to the corps de ballet. Get to know them here!
(Also, if you missed it last month, get to know PBT’s newest ballerinas, Michaela King and Marisa Grywalski here.)
MASAHIRO HANEJI – CORPS DE BALLET
Top-played song on your iPod right now: Bad Day by Daniel Powter, and the classical prince variation from Act III of The Sleeping Beauty. “I had to practice in rehearsal so many times. Even in private I always listen to music, getting the music into my body. I would keep playing it all day, so now it’s the top of my Ipod.”
Years dancing: 14 or 15 years
Family: Mom and sister
Hometown: Hokkaido, Japan
Favorite (non-dance) hobbies: Watching movies, playing games and building plastic models.
Favorite way to relax: Listen to music, or play games. “Just don’t think about the ballet. Switch your mind. Private is private. Ballet is ballet.”
Favorite Food: Pizza, Japanese food, hamburgers, steak, Thai food, curry and sweet stuff. “I really love the sweet stuff, so if I eat one sweet, I can’t stop.”
Three things you always bring to the studio: Leg warmers, water, and calf stretcher/roller.
Backstage good luck ritual and preparation: Thinking positive. “I always try to be like, ‘I can do this,’ or ‘it’s going to be so much fun.’”
If Masahiro wasn’t a professional ballet dancer, he would be a… pianist.
Describe how you got started dancing/what inspired you to make it into a career: “My sister was doing the ballet first. I was actually, not really having fun. My sister used to take me to the studio, because my mom is not always at the house because she always works till late. But after a few months, I was like, ‘maybe it’s fun to do it’. And that was the start of thinking about the ballet.”
What about Ballet inspired you to make it into a career: “I like the feeling on the stage, after we dance, the people just clapping, some screams. It’s actually like, one of the best moments of my life. I want to be the center of that thing.”
Most memorable moment on stage: “In the school I did some center stuff, a principal part, and after I finished the variation, or even the pas de deux… that is something I’ll always remember.”
“It happens sometimes that maybe the floor was slippery, or maybe your body was not ready, something that makes you, not completely fall on the ground, but kind of trip. That embarrasses me.”
Which of PBT’s 2014-15 season productions are you most looking forward to and why: Beauty and The Beast because he has never seen it before.
What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh: “The weather is kind of hard. But at the Houston Ballet, it was just too hot there. But here there are nice parks, nice areas, even the downtown is a nice area. I actually like all the stuff here. It’s beautiful. And all the people here at PBT are very nice.”
Top-played song on your iPod right now: I’m not sure, probably something to do with Jack White, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Radiohead.
Years dancing: 18 years, beginning at age 3.
Family: Mom, Tracy, and sister, Cascade.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Pets: I have a fish I left in CA with my mom named Blue. Or Admiral Blue.
(Non-dance) Hobbies: Biking, skating, drawing, pictures.
Favorite Way to Relax: Biking or walking around.
Favorite food: Too many to list.
Three things you always bring to the studio: Phone, headphones and warm ups
Backstage good luck ritual or pre-show prep: I don’t really have one…maybe putting on Chapstick.
If I wasn’t a professional ballet dancer, I would be: I’m not sure…Something art-related hopefully!
Describe how you got your start in dancing.
When I was three years old my Mom won tickets to see San Francisco Ballets The Nutcracker, so she took me. After the show I told her I wanted to start doing ballet and be a ballet dancer when I grew up so I started taking classes in a local gymnasium.
What about ballet inspired you to make it into a career? Did you have an epiphany moment?
I’m not really sure, because as I mentioned before I had wanted to dance for a living since I was three. I guess I realized it was a possibility for me personally when I was offered a place at American Ballet Theatre’s school. There’s been many dancers that inspire me, of course Baryshnikov and Nureyev, also Angel Corella. There’s something to learn from everyone though, so it’s hard to name just a few.
Describe one of your most memorable moments onstage.
That would probably be the two times I was able to perform at ABT’s opening night gala at the Met. Bowing there is a whole different deal, the applause sounds so much different from any other theater I’ve been in. It’s much louder and deeper. It’s cool knowing there’s 4000 people
Out there watching you.
Which of PBT’s 2014-2015 Season productions are you most looking forward to and why?
Pretty much all of it. I’ve never done any of it before, except for The Sleeping Beauty, so it’ll be nice dancing all new stuff. I’m really looking forward to Perit Mort though, I love all of Jiri Kylians and Nederlans Dans Theatre’s work so it should be a lot of fun.
Top-played song on your iPod right now: You’re a God by Vertical Horizon, Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls, What Would You Do by Bastille. “I do love nineties music.”
Years dancing: 8
Family: Jake has a younger brother who’s going to be 18 in a couple months. He is an actor who does commercials.
Hometown: Chatsworth, California. “I’ve been all over the country. I went through about 10 different schools in California.”
Pets: Jake has a Maltese terrier at home named Zippy.
Favorite (non-dance) hobby: Reading, going to the gym, obsessed with cars, and cooking.
Favorite way to relax: Going to the gym, reading, cooking, video games, Netflix and maybe shopping.
Favorite Food: Burgers.
Three things you always bring to the studio:Headphones, a towel, and a theraband to warm up my feet.
Backstage good luck ritual and preparation: “I tell myself the show will go well, no mistakes or injuries for myself or my colleagues and to remember to always have fun.”
If Jake wasn’t a professional ballet dancer, he would be…. Anything from a chef, soccer player, or a profession that involves building things.”
Describe how you got started in dancing.
“My mom took me to a dance class when I was five, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow I’m the only boy here and I’m surrounded by girls.’ I felt I could get used to this.’ I assumed I enjoyed it at a young age as my mom kept taking me to more and more classes and I never wanted to stop. I was fortunate enough to get to try many different types of dance, and I really enjoyed it. Dance became a part of my life and I never thought of not doing it. I loved being on stage and still do to this day. When I was about 10 or 11 I saw ABT (American Ballet Theatre) perform. I told my mom, ‘That’s going to be me.’ From then on, I started taking dance more seriously. I’m still just so incredibly grateful to have had a mom that made sure I was able to pursue my passion, help me, drive me, and always, find new places, i.e. change schools and make sure I was heading in the right direction.”
What about ballet inspired you to make it a career?
“I really love the art form and the physical aspect of it. I love music, and the feeling you get from different types of music, and how you can express yourself through movement. I did try acting, which my brother Nick is currently pursuing. I was personally just not comfortable. If someone were to ask me to go on stage or in front of a camera and recite a script, I’d probably run the other way. If someone said to go do this solo, to me that would be so much more exciting. I believe I feel more at home on the classical ballet stage than per say a camera… but you never know what opportunities may arise. I’m always open to trying new things.”
Describe one of your most memorable moments onstage.
“Probably doing Stanton Welch’s (Houston Ballet) ballet called “Fingerprints”. I performed it in our Houston Ballet II Graduation performance, the last program I was in. It was amazing and one of the hardest pieces I have gotten to perform. It had very raw masculine feel and you couldn’t help but be pulled in as a dancer and as an audience member. I felt so comfortable in this work but, at the same time it was so physically exhausting… it was incredible.”
Which of PBT’s 2014-15 season productions are you most looking forward to and why?
Petite Mort (PBT Premieres), because of the similar nature it has to Fingerprints, and its very powerful, dynamic movements. I tend to be comfortable and grounded in these contemporary works although, I love classical ballet. Being so hard and so impossibly difficult to keep the level of consistency that is demanded of such an art form I feel it has made me that much more confident in knowing that I can achieve whatever I’m working towards and what ever it is that has to be done this way, or else. I love that aspect of my profession. It has made me so much more patient and persistent in life and that can be very rewarding.”
What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?
“At the moment, my favorite parts of Pittsburgh are the trees, the geography, and the culture. I’m really enjoying the weather and look forward to the change of seasons.