Going places: Hannah was one of two students from the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet this spring (Drew Nelson was the other) to win a three-year, $165,000 scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, one of the most prestigious dance training programs in the world. (She also won scholarships to American Ballet Theatre and the Princess Grace Academy of Monaco, but had to turn them down.)
What makes her dancing stand out: "She has this incredible natural way of moving that feels very honest," says Peter Stark, the chair of Patel's dance department and artistic director of its Next Generation Ballet (NGB). "There's no artifice — it looks like she's having a good time, and the audience has a good time."
And she works hard at it: While maintaining a sophomore course load at Tampa Prep this year, she took dance classes six days a week, six to eight hours a day, at the Patel. She'd get home in the evening, do her homework, then "fall asleep as fast as possible." While in London, she'll get her high school degree via Florida Virtual Schools. "I've signed up for AP classes."
Did she see Black Swan? Her parents wouldn't let her. But this summer she experienced the intensely competitive side of dance as a scholarship student at the renowned New York City Ballet, carrying on the exacting legacy of George Balanchine. "It was very intense. Every class was like an audition there," she remembers. "But it was fun."
Why she likes dancing Balanchine: "It's so quick, upbeat — your head and arms are always moving in different positions, different ways. It's so fast, too — nothing boring."
Her favorite role so far: Titania in NGB's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream this past spring. "You're not a person — you're a magical creature."
Her biggest worry: "That something's gonna be pulled or fractured and the doctors say you can't dance."
But being alone in a big city won't be a problem: "I think I do pretty well on my own — this summer helped, being in New York City alone... I think especially with my friend Drew Nelson there [the other Royal Ballet scholarship winner] — knowing him will help."
Where to see her perform: She and Nelson will return from London in December to dance in NGB's Nutcracker in Sarasota.
Watch the Next Generation Ballet: youtube.com/user/TBPAC
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