Hannah Battes began her training at The Central Florida Ballet School in 2007. In 2010 she joined The Patel Conservatory as a new artist. In 2012 she joined the Royal Ballet School, where she was named a Nadia Nernia Scholar. During her time at RBS she danced with the Royal Ballet, performed at Buckingham Palace, and worked with world renowned choreographers. Hannah has won multiple awards in many different international competitions, including the Gold Medal in the Junior Division at Youth American Grand Prix and received a Silver Medal in Pre-Profetional Division in the World Ballet Competition.
What gets you out of bed in the mornings?
I definitely consider myself to be a morning person and a fairly light sleeper, so it doesn’t take much to get me out of bed. I’m usually up by 6:30a.m. The simple fact that I get to enjoy the quiet morning hours by reading the Economists over espresso and breakfast is enough to get me moving.
How did you start dancing?
Growing up my primary hobbies had always been gymnastics and Soccer. However, my younger sisters had been dancing since I can remember. I have memories of them trying to convince me to give dance a chance, but I deemed it as too feminine for me. My 7-year-old self took great pride in being the ‘tom boy’ and the last thing I wanted was to be condemned as a ‘girly-girl’; that would have totally messed with reputation in the 2nd grade. It wasn’t until my best friend at the time begged me to attend her beginner’s jazz class. What she saw as a way to show me the greatest thing on earth, I saw as a way to spend more quality time with my best friend. I was tired of always coming in 2nd place to ‘Dance’! After taking my first class the teacher immediately approached my mom and insisted I start full time at the dance studio because she saw ‘great potential’ in me. So, I agreed. I wanted to see more of my friend and if this was the only way to make that possible, why not? It was definitely a win/win. It wasn’t until much later that my casual attitude toward dance transitioned into passion becoming the love of my life and my most accurate form of self-expression.
Photo by Kenneth B Edwards
Most memorable moment of your career?
William Forsythe’s ‘Artifact’ as one of the Principal Pas de Deux couples. I will always hold it dear to my heart. The rehearsal process with Kathryn Bennetts and William Forsythe was otherworldly and I am extremely lucky that Boston Ballet trusted me with such an extraordinary opportunity. This process had not only allowed growth professionally but also personally, and that could not have been done without the help and support of my partner and the stagers throughout this process. I will gladly label this as ‘most memorable’ of my career so far.
Who is your role model and why?
I have many inspirations that I look up to and admire for certain qualities that they possess, but my role models would have to be Frida Kahlo, Chelsea Handler, and Sylvie Guillem. Although each of these women are seemingly different in stature, beliefs, and personality, they each live/lived their lives through independent thought, total self-government, deciding to never become comfortable in their ignorance, always accepting what they don’t know yet actively choose to learn more.
Frida Kahlo is by far my greatest role model because I resonate with her most. I see my own reflection in much of her life and work. I understand her most, or more she understands me.
Chelsea Handler is my role model because she is a giant contradiction. Controversial, abrasive, and much of the time insulting with her use of language, but she is a genuine ‘do-gooder’ through her actions. Actions speak louder than words.
Sylvie Guillem is my role model because, not only did she have all the potential to make an incredible ballet dancer, but also she was able to become an icon within the dance world through applied intelligence. The way she thought and worked allowed her conquer the technical aspects of ballet AND artistic ones.
Photo by Kenneth B Edwards
Do you have a specific way of warming up for a performance or to get focused for a main role?
When you were in school preparing for a test did anyone ever suggest that you ‘recreate’ your study environment while taking the quiz to improve your test score? Well, I am a firm believer in this tactic and find it to be extremely efficient. So, regardless of my role I try to do everything, as I normally would, recreate my routine as if it were just another rehearsal day in the theatre. We are creatures of habit and changing your routine on a day when you are sure to become more stressed is only going to make matters much worse in my opinion.
On an average performance day I try to get to the theatre 1hr-1.5hr in advance to complete my hair and makeup. This also leaves a bit of time for my warm-up. So, regardless of my roles that evening I try to stick to that time frame, if I get there too early that allows to much space for unwanted thoughts to creep up on me, self-doubt is the last thing I want therefore I try to leave as little time for THAT as possible! I’m usually very chatty, but when stressed I tend to retreat inward. So the hardest part about recreating my ‘routine’ is forcing myself to engage in conversation as I usually would, in attempt to avoid over thinking. By the time my hair and make-up and gossiping is complete, I try to give myself at least 30minutes to do a quick abs series and a short barre before heading out onto the stage.
Which is your favourite theatre in the world to dance in?
As much as I adore the Boston Opera House and Boston Ballet, I have to admit that dancing on the Royal Opera House Stage in Covent Garden is something otherworldly.
How is company life at Boston Ballet?
Company life is intense at the Boston Ballet, as it is with many ballet companies, and I love every minute of it. We have a diverse repertoire making the opportunity for artistic and technical growth seemingly endless. From Balanchine to Forsythe to Petipa to Cranko, and the list of choreographers extends far beyond that. We are an incredibly lucky company to have the opportunity to perform such prestigious works. In addition to our incredible ever-evolving ever-growing repertoire, we have an assortment of expert ballet Master’s and Mistress’ that help to create the atmosphere suited for the diligent rigor that is expected of us here at Boston Ballet. Hard work is of the highest value.
What is your favourite ballet trick/step?
I can’t say that my favourite ballet step is something that’s constant, but for some reason I seem to really enjoy a good jete manege these days.
Photo by Kenneth B Edwards
What has been the hardest and most challenging role you have performed?
2nd Act Swan Corps in Swan Lake has been the most physically and mentally challenging role I have performed and it probably always will be.
What's your escape from the ballet the world?
I find my escape mostly through books and literal travel. Whenever I have any down time I try to travel. I suffer from severe wanderlust. Last summer I traveled to 9 different countries and am planning a trip for at least another 5 this summer, and I try to travel around the states when I have weekends free.
In the past 3 months I’ve been to 5 different states and 3 countries. I believe traveling is the most mind-expanding thing a person can chose to do.
Any words of advice for those aspiring to become professional ballet dancers?
A passion for honesty and self-expression must be your driving force, not perfection of ‘tricks’ and technique. Ballet is more than ‘striving for perfection’. Ballet is an art form, although it may be athletic, it is not a sport. Our movement is derived from feelings not physical obligations. I believe ballet is the most revealing of art forms and that the more you are able to coalesce your professional and personal life, the more moving and real your art will become. To provoke emotion, thought, and self-reflection amongst the audience, isn’t that the point? The best art is the most vulnerable and honest.
Stay assiduous and persevere. Ballet is NOT an easy path, but if you pursue it for the right reasons and continue with thoughtful intention, this career path is well worth every moment of doubt and insecurity you will endure.
In the words of John Neumeier, during a pep-talk he gave the dancers at Boston Ballet last season, just moments before the premiere of his ‘Mahler’s Third Symphony’, “Through discipline you will find freedom.”