Monday, May 9, 2011

Spotlight on Hannah Beach

Hannah Beach is living the dream - both onstage and off. Onstage, she’s dancing the role of Titania, queen of the fairies, in Next Generation Ballet's A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Straz Center this weekend. The ballet is a fantasy based on Shakespeare’s play and set to the music of Felix Mendelssohn.
Hannah Beach. Photo by Vam Productions.
But her stage dreamworld is part of a larger fairy tale that’s coming true for Hannah. She was recently offered a full scholarship, including room and board, to the Royal Ballet School in London, one of the best in the world.
“This whole year has been amazing,” said Hannah. “I didn’t know any of this would happen...I’m still dreaming.”
Like any little girl who wants to do what their friends are doing, Hannah started taking dance classes at a local studio when she was six years old. 
“All my friends were taking dance, so I wanted to,” said Hannah, 16, of St. Petersburg, who never would have guessed where that would lead her.
She continued taking classes over the years, and she excelled. She joined the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet two years ago. Peter Stark, the Patel Conservatory dance department chair, saw promise in her.
“Peter told her to set her arrow high, shoot for the major world renowned ballet companies,” said Felicia Beach, Hannah’s mother. “He wanted her to concentrate on getting to the best. And he got her there.”
Last fall, when the Conservatory started its pre-professional ballet company, Next Generation Ballet, Hannah began her dance training full-time. Next Generation Ballet dancers' schedules include conditioning and technique classes, and partnering class.
“It’s more challenging, but I’ve improved a lot more because I’m there all day, and because we have more time training with Peter Stark and Ivonne Lemus,” said Hannah. She says the partnering class helped immensely since there’s very little opportunity elsewhere to train with male partners.
It’s been a busy year for the 16-year-old dancer. Last fall, she was invited to perform at the International Ballet Festival of Miami. She won Best Overall Dancer in the Classical and Contemporary Categories at the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) regionals. And, she performed as the Doll and an Arabian Leopard in Next Generation Ballet’s The Imperial Nutcracker at the Straz Center.
In March, Hannah placed in the top 12 in the senior women’s division of the YAGP finals in New York City, an especially high honor since she was among the youngest in her division.
Her performance won her scholarships from several prestigious ballet schools, including the Royal Ballet School in the fall. She will also attend the School of American Ballet in NYC this summer on full merit scholarship.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she’s had the opportunity to work with guest artist Nieser Zambranan of the National Ballet of Cuba.
Though it will be hard for Felicia and her family to see Hannah go to London, “opportunities like this are just too rare,” Felicia said. “Hannah’s never off task, or not trying her hardest...She’s mature enough to handle it.”
Hannah’s younger sister Gabi seems to be following in her sister’s footsteps. Also a dancer at the Patel Conservatory, she played Clara in theThe Imperial Nutcracker, and will begin in the full-time dance program here in the fall.
“Ivonne Lemus and Peter Stark form a fabulous team. They pass on their knowledge of ballet to my daughters in a challenging yet enjoyable way,” said Felicia. “Their coaching is directly related to Hannah's successful year of competitions...and scholarship offers. I am so thankful that Hannah's ballet path has been carefully guided by Peter and Ivonne these past two years. We cannot thank them and the Patel Conservatory enough.”

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