As he began to look into traditional Chinese medicine, he was mesmerized. "My career as a performer gave me a whole vocabulary about not knowing, stepping into questions, not answers," he says. "And that's how Chinese medicine ultimately made sense to me, too. They're both worlds of moving energy." Before long, he was enrolled part time in an acupuncture school.
Performing in front crowds of thousands? That was nothing compared to the fear he felt upon going back to school. "I hadn't been with a big, fat textbook in years," he recalls. "I was scared I'd forgotten how to study." But he soon learned a reassuring truth about returning to school later in life: "You have a very different mind-set. You know what you're doing at school. I knew myself a whole lot better."
In 2007, Hanson graduated from Tri-State College of Acupuncture in Manhattan, but that was when the true test began. "You come out of school, and you're a beginning acupuncturist. You're not the be-all-end-all of alternative medicine." Facing school debt, Hanson had to act quickly to make ends meet. So he decided to tap into a group he considered his family — the Broadway community.
Hanson knew that Broadway performers were his ideal clientele: "Dancers get feet things — all that jumping and metal plates on the bottom of your shoes," he says. "It's like being a horse!" So he wrote letters, soliciting business from everyone he knew in the industry. "I said, ‘I'm one of you, but I'm also an acupuncturist.' " His letter-writing campaign worked: His clients saw dramatic results and began to refer their friends and fellow cast members.
Today, his practice, Healing Perspective, has its own Manhattan office — plus he does backstage "house calls" for a long list of loyal clients (such as Mama Mia! star Judy McLane). Hanson's practice was able to "spread its wings and take off" thanks to the Broadway community, and a lot of hard work. "You can't sit back and wait for your big break to come. You have to get out there and do it," he says. "The same thing I learned in show business I apply to my acupuncture business."
Hanson sees some more parallels between his two careers. "This medicine has just enough theater in it for me," he laughs. But he enjoys the daily rhythms of his life as an acupuncturist more than he enjoyed the repetitive routine of performing: "Now I have a different self, and the proportions feel more in alignment with my authentic nature." Still, the memory of his days on Broadway isn't gone, it's just, as he puts it, "a piece of a larger picture now."
Grateful for the support of acting coach Shurin and some of his other Broadway friends, Hanson has helpful advice for people looking to take the first steps towards reinvention: "Find a coach." Whether it's a friend, a family member or a therapist, Hanson advises, "You need to find somebody to bounce ideas off of and to get honest, tough feedback. If you really want to make a change, most of us can't do it on our own."