Contemporary

Bryan Tanaka on Tour Life with the Stars

Two years after landing in Hollywood, Bryan Tanaka is already on his third international tour with a major artist. After sharing the stage with Destiny’s Child at a Dallas Cowboys halftime show in 2004, Tanaka impressed DC’s choreographers enough to land a spot on the Destiny Fulfilled world tour. Just one year later, he headed back out on the road with Mariah Carey on her high-profile Emancipation of Mimi tour. These days, he’s off globe-trotting with hip-hop diva Rihanna. Driven and down-to-earth, Tanaka tells DS all about life in the touring lane.

DS: What are rehearsals for a world tour like?

BT: You start one to two months beforehand. On the Mariah tour, there were only four guy dancers and two girls, whereas Destiny’s Child had six guys and four girls. Having that many people for Destiny’s Child meant more work and more people to get on the same page. Choreographer Frank Gatson rehearsed us seven days a week—sometimes from 10 am to 11 pm. But he was very focused on the artists, so the dancers had to pull together as a team and work with the assistant choreographers.

DS: What changed for you from the Destiny’s Child tour to the Mariah tour?

BT: On the Destiny’s Child tour, I was the rookie, the new cat, the youngest. People were trying to look out for me. For the Mariah tour, I was with veterans—the “OG-est” of the “OGs” of the dance game. [OG means “original gangsta.”] The male dancers were true legends: Russell “Goofy” Wright, Earl “Punch” Wright and Eddie Morales, who could possibly be the best dancer in the world.

DS: How do you make inroads with established cliques of dancers on a tour?

BT: You’ve got to go in and do your job. You have to be focused, know everything you’re taught and work 110 percent. Work harder than they do and prove that you deserve to fit in with these people.

DS: What other types of people do you interact with behind the scenes?

BT: Touring with a major artist is like having an entourage of 70 or 80 people. In every country, every hotel you go into—you own the whole thing. You’re protected with security; you’ve got the stars and their assistants, the band and dancers, and the crew. They’re your family for that time.

DS: Do you have time to sightsee?

BT: It depends on how the tour is laid out. You might have to drive immediately after a show to the next location. Sometimes you don’t get time to chill and see the place. When I can, I make sure to take pictures and explore. The first time going around the world, you should take time to really see it, or you’re cheating yourself.

DS: What kinds of things do you do the day of a show?

BT: Sightsee, check out of the hotel around 2:30 pm, go to the venue, sit around on the bus and get massages, watch movies or eat dinner. I also like to watch the opening act. It’s a good way to get hyped up for the show.

DS: Is there a protocol for interacting with the artist?

BT: At first, you can’t think the artist is your best friend. It took three or four months before I got called by name by someone in Destiny’s Child. Artists deal with a lot of people. If they see you working hard every night, they might eventually reward you with recognition or invite you to dinner or an after-party, but that’s rare.

DS: What valuable lessons have you learned from past gigs that are helping you now with the Rihanna tour?

BT: The DC tour warmed me up for success. In that camp, things were chaotic; there were always changes being made. You had to be ready to learn new fixes, and we were rehearsing two or three months into the show. It was a work in progress. I now feel prepared for anything!

Check out a clip of Bryan Tanaka's choreography from his hip-hop class at Millennium Dance Complex in L.A. at dancespirit.com/.

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less
Screenshot via YouTube

Look out, 'cause here they come!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team scontent-iad3-1.cdninstagram.com

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored