|Bettes in a performance of Swan Lake|
Hannah Bettes is blessed with a gift. She possesses the extraordinary flexibility and natural talent of a ballerina.
At age 12, after taking ballet just a couple of times a week at a local studio, she was accepted on full scholarship to the summer intensive at the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City.
Bettes, 14, of Deland, FL, began dancing when she was 8 years old at a jazz studio. She soon joined their competition team, and later added ballet classes. Now, she’s been offered scholarships to three full-time dance programs. She chose the Patel Conservatory.
“I decided to come here because there were so many more opportunities here. We’ll be having two performances this year, if not more. There’s also a day program,” said Bettes. “And I’ll be under Peter Stark, which is a plus.”
Bettes has been chosen as one of the first apprentices of the new ballet company at the Straz Center, the Next Generation Ballet. She has moved to Tampa with her grandmother to study dance full-time at the Patel Conservatory and be part of the new ballet company. She’ll complete academic work online through Florida Virtual School.
Bettes’ ultimate goal is to one day study full-time at SAB and join the New York City Ballet, which is why she chose to study with Stark, the Patel Conservatory dance department chair and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet.
“Since he comes from that background, he’d be the right person to train with, and he’s a good coach,” said Bettes, who had the opportunity to train with Stark when he was director of the Orlando Ballet.
The formation of the Next Generation Ballet further establishes the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center as a premier training ground for pre-professional dancers like Bettes.
The Next Generation Ballet will perform with guest artists, as well as Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet students, in full-scale productions at the Straz Center. Its first production will be The Nutcracker in December, featuring guest artists from the New York City Ballet and Boston Ballet.
Bettes will be training nearly eight hours a day, five days a week, an arduous schedule compared to her previous training.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, and it’s going to be a ton of work, but it’s all for the best,” said Bettes. “It’ll be a lot more dancing than I’m used to, but I’m excited to do something that I love.”