The Artist’s Way: Katerina Tannenbaum, Actor

In this special feature, T photographed and interviewed 34 artists from various disciplines about 24 hours in their creative lives.

Article by Juan A Ramírez

Katerina TannenbaumTannenbaum at Gibney dance studio in Civic Center, Manhattan, on March 9, 2022. Photography by Dan McMahon.

I grew up dancing and doing musical theatre in Portland, Oregon. I was obsessed with Bob Fosse, Broadway and New York — I moved to the city when I was 18, initially to go to dance school, though I didn’t enrol because I wanted to study theatre instead.

I tend to overintellectualise stuff, but dancing exposes my animal side. It feels good and shuts my brain off, which is helpful for my work. Acting requires having a natural reaction rooted in your character’s background, but if you’re obsessing over things or are only focused on the words, you lose the moment. The magic of dance is in letting your body react.

In my daily life, I don’t like to be the centre of attention; my instinct is to be a bit smaller. And when I work in film or television, everything has to remain nuanced since the camera’s so close. But with dance, I like to go big. If I’m having a really hard time, I’ll book a studio and stay there for hours. I don’t do a traditional ballet warm-up or anything; it’s free-form. I’ve been listening to MSC and Björk, both of which are varied and emotive. I like to dance to reggaeton: Rosalía, La Goony Chonga. Obviously, music informs the movement, but I go in there with a different mood every time. I recently had an audition for a historical piece that required superphysical acting. So I brought what little period clothing I own to a dance studio, put my bloomers on, found music from the year the script took place — 1909 — and just moved.

I started taking ballet classes as a toddler, and I used to be very regimented. Now, it’s about doing what I want. Dancing does this amazing thing — similar to acting — where it makes you let go of the shame of looking stupid. When I’m alone in the studio, I feel safe.

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our seventh edition, Page 76 of T Australia with the headline: “The Artist’s Way”