American Stars Gala’s Hannah Bettes: The opportunity to be someone else is the best part of theater
For Boston Ballet soloist Hannah Bettes, the key to a long dancing career is to be honest with one’s self and identifying one’s good and bad traits. “Keep pushing and working to change the bad, and work even harder to maintain what is good,” she advises.
Hannah is one of the dancers headlining Ballet Manila’s American Stars Gala on July 7 at Aliw Theater. The one-night-only concert also features Boston Ballet principal dancers Lia Cirio and Junxiong Zhao, Houston Ballet principal dancers Yuriko Kajiya and Jared Matthews, and Ballet Manila resident guest principal artists Katherine Barkman and Joseph Phillips.
Hannah began her training at the Central Florida Ballet School in 2007. In 2012, she moved to London to continue her training at the Royal Ballet School. While there, she danced with the Royal Ballet, performed at Buckingham Palace, and worked with world-renowned choreographers. She has received multiple awards including the gold medal in both the Junior and Senior Divisions at Youth America Grand Prix.
In 2014, Hannah joined Boston Ballet as a corps de ballet member and was promoted to second soloist in 2017. She has performed numerous works by Marius Petipa, George Balanchine, William Forsythe and John Neumeier, among many others, with the company.
For American Stars Gala, she will be partnered by Junxiong Zhao in the La Sylphide pas de deux and the Sleeping Beauty wedding pas de deux.
Hannah shares tidbits about her life in and out of ballet in this interview with www.balletmanilaarchives.com:
What or who inspired you to seriously pursue a career in ballet? When did you realize that you wanted to do this?
That “eureka” moment came much later for me – it wasn’t until my second season with the Boston Ballet, after working with (choreographer) William Forsythe for the first time. Prior to working with him, I don’t think I fully understood the multitude of metaphors that ballet has the capacity for. Forsythe has this amazing way of communicating his abstract ideas in a way that feels familiar for the dancers; he made the information easy to digest. It was only through working and listening to him that I began to understand and experience the true freedom that the stage can offer. That’s when I decided I could do this and be fulfilled by it.
What is your favorite ballet or character to perform?
So far in my career, my favorite role to perform has been Effy in La Sylphide. Although dancing-wise, it definitely wasn’t the most challenging or strenuous role I’ve performed, there was a lot of acting involved. I love performing roles that require human thought throughout the ballet. There’s something so special about combining the surreal quality of ballet technique with a pedestrian thought process. I am looking forward to performing more artistically dense roles in the future! For me, the opportunity to be someone else and to live another life I otherwise wouldn't, is the best part about theater!
What is it about ballet that makes all the effort worth it?
Ballet has always been the medium through which it’s easiest for me to communicate the interconnectedness of all things and experiences. My growth as a person is connected to my growth as a dancer and it is extremely satisfying to see that internal shift externalized. This, for me, is what makes all the effort and pain worth it.
What advice can you give to young dancers who want to nurture a fruitful career in ballet?
There are a few things every young dancer pursuing a career in ballet should learn:
- To hope but never expect
- The art of perseverance
- How to self-validate
What these things have in common is honesty. So, to all the young dancers out there, make it your mission to remain honest with yourself. Know within yourself what good qualities you possess AND what bad qualities you possess, but never allow those things to define you. Keep pushing and working to change the bad, and work even harder to maintain what is good. Learn to enjoy the pursuit because it will never finish, and let that encourage you in the face of the small failures that are to come. Don’t expect your teacher to push you and encourage you. Do it for yourself first.
What do you do when you’re not dancing?
I travel every opportunity I get, even if I only have a two-day weekend. I think it’s very important to travel. It’s good to expose yourself to perspectives you otherwise would never get the chance to experience. I also love to read and I do a fair amount of writing. I like to build things and work with my hands. I also spend a lot of time with my friends. I love trying new restaurants and bars. I enjoy taking university classes when I can; I place a lot value on continuing education. I believe I live a fairly well-rounded life outside the ballet – or at least I try to!