Tripp Hanson was living his dream.
After years of training and touring smaller stages, he'd finally made it to Broadway — and his first show, Crazy for You, was a smash hit. It won the 1992 Tony for Best Musical and provided Hanson with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as performing for Ginger Rogers at the Kennedy Center Honors.
"It was the most thrilling year of my life," says Hanson, a singer, dancer and actor. But then when the curtain fell and the tedium of the Broadway routine began to set in, he felt strangely unsatisfied.
"What I began to realize was it wasn't the perfect match for me," Hanson, 53, recalls. "I love the Broadway community. But there was a sinking, sick feeling that maybe I'm not going to spend the rest of my life doing what I set out with such gusto to do."
That feeling plagues many performers, especially as they age. Like professional athletes, dancers have finite career spans, and the physical and psychological demands of the profession often drive them to an early retirement. And, like so many highly motivated dreamers, Hanson had always been singularly focused on his journey to the top. He'd never considered what he would do after he got there.
Hanson performed on Broadway for another 10 years in shows such as Kiss Me Kate and Thoroughly Modern Millie. But he was still searching for a second act that would provide him more long-term fulfillment. He taught acting classes, he took a fiction writing workshop — but nothing stuck. Frustrated, he sought solace in the advice of his longtime acting coach, Sande Shurin.
"She told me, ‘It's OK to live in the questions. It's OK to be uncomfortable where you are and to keep moving forward.' "
Then one day, what appeared to be an ordinary, if somewhat unusual, moment turned into a life-changing event. On a friend's recommendation, Tripp took his dog, Spanky, who was suffering from knee pain, to an acupuncturist.
"I was like, what are you talking about? They do it for dogs now?"
But the treatment worked wonders. Thoroughly impressed, Hanson decided to try it for a foot injury, aggravated from years of dancing.
"I felt this rush of energy, almost like a tiny little firecracker went off in my foot," Hanson says of his first experience under the needles. "I was like, ‘Wow, what was that?' "