If you pictured a dream ballet dancer, you’d be seeing Hannah Bettes. The 16-year-old has gorgeous facility: impossible, effortless flexibility and crescent-moon feet. But watch her move, and it becomes clear she’s not just a Ballerina Barbie. She’s a smart dancer. When she gets a correction, it’s immediately absorbed, processed and—boom—problem solved. Though Hannah’s DS photo shoot was her first time modeling, she had an inherent understanding of what would look good on camera. Remarkably self-aware, she wowed the editors, pose after gorgeous pose. This is a girl with serious prima potential.
The last time DS caught up with Hannah (“You Should Know,” January 2011), she had just started training intensively in ballet at Florida’s renowned Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory, after spending several years dominating the jazz and contemporary competition scene with The Dance P.A.D. (then known as Deltona Academy of Dance). “I kind of flipped over to ballet,” Hannah says. “While I was still at my comp studio, I won the silver medal at the World Ballet Competition, I went to the School of American Ballet’s summer program and I did The Nutcracker. Eventually I was like, Yeah: Ballet is what I want to do.”
Initially, Hannah liked that ballet was a constant quest for perfection. But now, after a few years at Patel, she’s discovering another side of the artform. “I really enjoy the acting part of it, becoming different characters in different ballets,” she says. Her dance dream used to be joining New York City Ballet, with its repertoire of neoclassical works by George Balanchine. “But my perspective on everything has changed,” she says. “I want to go really classical now. I realized that in companies like The Royal Ballet and Paris Opéra Ballet, you get to try out Balanchine, but you get to do Swan Lake and Giselle, too. I also have a more classical body. Balanchine dancers tend to be taller; I’m only 5' 2".”
Hannah’s well on her way to her classical dreams: In April she won the Senior gold medal at Youth America Grand Prix finals in NYC, and she’ll head to London’s Royal Ballet School this fall, thanks to a scholarship she won at the Prix de Lausanne in February. “I miss the fun energy of studio competitions sometimes, but ballet competitions like Lausanne are crazy—doing well at one of them can change your life,” she says. Her visit to Lausanne, Switzerland, for the Prix also gave Hannah her first taste of the European dance scene. “It’s a totally different atmosphere,” she says. “Ballet is so well-known and respected in Europe. There’s more opportunity. I can see myself ending up over there.”
Birthday: March 26, 1996
First thing she does in the morning: “I usually sit on the couch for an hour, just to wake up.”
Most-played on her iPod: “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver
Three words that describe her: “Adventurous, outgoing, happy”
Last thing she does at night: “I like to go on Tumblr. I follow a bunch of my friends’ blogs, and I have my own Tumblr now—it’s all dance stuff and inspirational quotes.”
Strangest thing in her dance bag: “I have one of those things to stretch your straddle—it looks like a giant rubber band.”
Must-see TV shows: “ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ for sure. I know most people have given up on that show by now, but I still love it!”
Dream dance role: “Probably Giselle. The ballet has such a beautiful, moving story. I love watching Alina Cojocaru’s Giselle online.”
Dance crush: Sergei Polunin (former principal dancer with The Royal Ballet)
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT HANNAH:
Peter Stark, Hannah’s teacher at Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory: “Hannah has extraordinary flexibility. When she lifts her leg, it just keeps going up. But she’s committed to the artistry of classical ballet, as well as the gymnastics of it. She’s learned how to make decisions about placement that create the best line and enhance her musicality. I’ve never seen Hannah lose her temper and I’ve never seen her cry. She’s not motivated by the short-term goal of a medal—she’s motivated by the long-term process of becoming a great dancer. Thanks to her experience with competitions, she knows she won’t win every time. And when she doesn’t, she just says, ‘OK, next.’ ”
Matthew Powell, ballet instructor at Broadway Dance Center: “Hannah has beautiful legs and feet, and with her extension comes amazing control, which is a rarity. In class she was very upbeat and positive and always engaged in the corrections I gave her.”
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