Senior dance major to audition for ‘Lion King’ choreographer in New York City

Published by adviser, Author: Kelsey Phillips - Rocket Contributor, Date: March 24, 2015

A Slippery Rock University student is set to audition with a world-renowned choreographer after submitting an audition tape over the summer.

Recently, the senior dance major, Curtis Hanner, was offered an audition with Garth Fagan, the choreographer responsible for “The Lion King” musical, based on the Walt Disney film of the same name, which was first adapted for the stage by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.  He will spend a week with Garth Fagan Dance, based in Rochester, New York, with all trip expenses paid for.

Despite this major stepping stone in his career, it did not come without its challenges for Hanner.

With the pressure from family members to play football, Hanner found ways to get dance lessons for free at his high school, Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts 6-12 School (CAPA). Hanner also contacted the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO) Academy and received additional training on a scholarship. In total, Hanner danced at least eight hours a day, six days a week before declaring a dance major at SRU.

One day over the summer, Hanner decided to send his resume and dance videos out to several dance companies across the U.S. seeking advice on how to better prepare for joining one of their companies. He received several positive responses from Dayton Dance Contemporary and Garth Fagan Dance.

“I didn’t realize [until] after I sent the email that [Garth Fagan] was the man who choreographed Lion King the musical first,” Hanner said.

The company sent Hanner an email asking about his progression and offered him an in-person audition and week-long stay with the company to see how his personality and skills fit in with the group.

“Everyone who knows me knows that my dream is to one day be a part of the cast of ‘Lion King,’” Hanner said.

His own “Lion King”-inspired piece, “The Promise Land,” was performed at the Winter Dance Concert at the Butler County Community College (BC3) Theater. The dance was to “He Lives in You (Reprise)” by Jason Raize and featured a fusion of West African celebration dances and contemporary movement.

“When I was able to emulate that powerful show on stage with my name on it, I could die a happy man,” Hanner said.

Throughout his years as a dancer, Hanner has developed a liking and talent for Hip Hop. He was inspired by watching Michael Jackson and Usher on television, and has since finessed his skills in Popping, Locking, Waving, Krumping, House and other styles in the same field. Hanner also enjoys West African dance styles, but names Hip Hop as his foundation as a dancer.

Hanner’s biggest inspiration for dance, besides his father, is Desmond Richardson, co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

“In my opinion, [Richardson] is a man who not only breaks barriers for African American male dancers, but any dancer who had to push past a stereotype or stigmatism based on who they identified themselves as,” Hanner said.

Following his studies at SRU, Hanner wants to take a year off to focus on his career as a professional dancer before attending graduate school.  After he is established as an artist, Hanner wants to get his masters, and eventually his doctorate, in dance therapy so he can start giving back to the community.

“I think Dr. Hanner has a nice ring to it,” he said.

He hopes to do at least two seasons with a company and audition for “The Lion King” musical if the cast has an opening.

“I want to live in New York and live out every dancer’s dream,” Hanner said.


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