That impossibly elastic back. That up-to-there extension. Those out-of-this-world feet. It’s a no-brainer: 14-year-old Hannah Bettes was made to be a ballerina.
And yet Hannah is shockingly new to the world of ballet. The Dallas, TX, native first began studying jazz and contemporary at The Dance P.A.D. (then known as Deltona Academy of Dance) in Florida at age 8, and quickly racked up title after title at competitions. She didn’t discover ballet until she was 12, when she began taking a couple of classes a week at Central Florida Ballet. “Ballet is so challenging, because you’re striving for this impossible perfection,” Hannah says. “I fell in love with the discipline of it.” And ballet loved her back: She won the silver medal at the World Ballet Competition in 2008, was one of just three Americans to place in the top 12 at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in 2009 and spent two summers at the prestigious School of American Ballet (SAB) in NYC—the second on full scholarship.
Now Hannah trains at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, under the direction of former New York City Ballet dancer Peter Stark. She’s also the youngest “new artist” (company member) with the conservatory’s Next Generation Ballet. “The first time I saw Hannah, my jaw hit the floor,” Stark says. “She has flexibility and strength and a phenomenal line to her feet and legs—things you almost never get all together. She’s hungry to learn, and because she has no physical limitations, her progress is stratospheric.” Stark also thinks Hannah’s comp-school background works to her advantage in ballet. “All that competing has rendered her totally fearless,” he says. “She doesn’t have the timidity that limits many ballet dancers—she goes for the fifth pirouette every time.”
This winter, Hannah starred as the Snow Queen in the conservatory’s Nutcracker, dancing a pas de deux Stark choreographed for her and his former student Jeffrey Cirio (now a second soloist at Boston Ballet). What’s next? Hannah says, “Eventually I’d love to study at SAB, and then join New York City Ballet.”
Birthday: March 26, 1996
Most-played on her iPod: Kate Nash’s “Skeleton Song”
Must-see TV shows: “Criminal Minds” and “iCarly”
Favorite food: “Corn! Like, any kind of corn. I know it sounds weird, but I love it.”