Dancer Hadala retiring after storied career with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 9:05 p.m.

Transitions in life can be rocky experiences, but dancer Stephen Hadala has found a graceful path to the next phase of his life.

Hadala, 36, is retiring after 16 seasons with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. A member of the corps de ballet, he is a riveting performer of character roles, such as the magician uncle Drosselmeyer in “The Nutcracker.”

“I'm moving back to Michigan after 17 years, pretty much picking up where I left off,” he says. “My sister, Kathleen Hadala, and I are going to take over the dance school where we both started 30 years ago. We'll be co-directors of Allard Academy of Dance in Harrison Township. I'll also be joining the faculty at Marygrove College (in Detroit), where I studied. The universe put things in alignment for me.”

Hadala, who lives in Polish Hill with wife Maghen and their 2-year-old son, Ian, has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues, and has formed many close friendships.

“He's a wonderful artist on the stage and takes roles to an upper level of importance,” says artistic director Terrence Orr. “He's more than an artist, he's a well-rounded person and dancer. Choreographers and stagers coming in from the outside always pick him because he has so much to give. I think it's going to be a big hole not having him here.”

Hadala was born and raised in Harper Woods, Mich., just east of Detroit. When his mother took his sister Kathleen, 4, for ballet lessons, he asked for tap-dance lessons. He was 6 and his interest in dance took off from there.

He was dancing in college when Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre came to Detroit on tour with “Dracula.”

“PBT's ballet master, Robert Munoz, at the time was friends with one of my teachers, saw me in college class and asked me to come to a company class,” Hadala says. “There, Terry saw me and asked me to come to the ballet school. Four months later he asked me to join the company.”

“I thought he would be a really good addition,” Orr says. “He was just rough and needed training.”

Drosselmeyer is Hadala's best known role, partly because “The Nutcracker” is performed so often. Both Orr and the dancer say working on the role year after year enabled them to really develop the character.

But Orr also emphasizes Hadala's back rolls and awesome steps in the same ballet's “Russian Dance.”

“I think every ballet I ever see him in, I feel he's coming with his own attitude,” Orr says. “When he presents roses for the four princesses in ‘The Sleeping Beauty,' he had a look that was masculine, very steadfast. He's articulate in everything, from classical to contemporary.”

Hadala says his favorite roles, aside from Drosselmeyer, include “Dracula” for sentimental reasons, Dr. Coppelius in “Coppelia,” and as the apex Mitch in John Neumeier's “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

He decided to retire about a year ago.

“I kept thinking there would be a time when performing wouldn't be as exciting, or the day to day would get so monotonous I would get tired. I don't see that happening in the near future,” he says. “I feel I'm dancing really well, probably the best I ever had. I decided to end on the highest note possible. I had plenty of time to mull it over and to enjoy every step on the stage environment of the profession.”

Orr and the dancers have the best kind of mixed feelings about Hadala's departure.

“Steve has been one of the most kind and honest people I've known,” soloist Elyssa Hotchkiss says. “It's been like having a big brother in the company. You couldn't ask for a better or more understanding partner. I feel blessed to have gotten to dance with a dear friend for so many seasons. I will sorely miss him, along with everyone else.”

Mark Kanny is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or

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