On the Rise: Hannah Bettes
Bettes dancing "Coppélia" at the Cape Town International Ballet Competition. Courtesy Patel Conservatory.
Even before taking her first professional bow with Boston Ballet this fall, Hannah Bettes was one of the best-known teens in ballet. Her bright, lyrical presence, together with a stunning facility (those feet), has won her numerous competition medals and a devoted following. Now in her first season as a corps member, she’s discovering how competition fame translates into a career.
Company: Boston Ballet
Hometown: DeLand, FL
Training: Central Florida Ballet School, Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory, The Royal Ballet School
Accolades: Youth America Grand Prix gold medal, junior division; World Ballet Competition silver medal, pre-professional division; Prix de Lausanne second prize, Audience Choice
Breakout moments: After winning at Prix de Lausanne in 2012, she spent her last two years of training at RBS, where Liam Scarlett chose Bettes as a soloist for a ballet he set on the school.
On transitioning into company life: “Ballet can be selfish at times—you’re always working on yourself—but now, being part of a corps de ballet where everyone has to be the same, it’s not really a selfish thing anymore.”
What she’s working on: ”I’m still constantly working toward holding my turnout. And a lot of my base technique, I find, is still kind of weak. From the competitions, I learned how to do a lot of tricks, but it’s the little in-between steps that I’m still faulty with.”
What Nissinen is saying: “She was a top-level student, but it’s a very different thing to be a student than a professional—I was willing to take that big step and start her in the company,” says Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “And she has been able to handle it. Now, it’s just: How do we hone those qualities? How do we make her a top-rate artist? This is just the beginning.”
Her first year at Boston: Bettes has already rehearsed soloist roles, including Neapolitan and four little swans in Swan Lake, and she performed the ballerina doll in Nutcracker. This spring, she is thrilled to revisit her contemporary roots. “We’re doing Episodes and Chroma in the same triple bill. Just being around it will be incredible.”
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Yvonne Rainer's Parts of Some Sextets (AKA "the mattress dance") hasn't been revived since it premiered in 1965. Nor has Rainer had any wish to do it again, to ask performers to heave 10 mattresses around while carrying out 31 tasks that changed every 30 seconds. It was an unwieldy, difficult dance. (Even the title is unwieldy.) But Emily Coates, who has danced in Rainer's work for 20 years, became curious about this piece and was determined to see it again—and to dance in it. She will get her wish November 15–17, when the mattress dance will be performed as part of the Performa 19 Biennial.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.