Ballerina shares art, life lessons with youths
A dozen young dancers, each dressed in a simple leotard and pink tights, their hair tightly wrapped in neat buns, rose in chorus from fifth position into an echappe, delving into a series of delicate steps paired to a joyful piano melody.
In a simple white room with a full-length mirror covering one wall and ballet barres or rails on the opposite wall, each dancer intently concentrated on every movement, position and angle of her body. The soft tapping from a dozen satin pointe shoes could be heard above the commands of the instructor, Christin Hanna of the New Chamber Ballet.
Hanna has “exceptional teaching talent,” said Artistic Director Miro Magloire, sitting just outside the Lake Forest Creative Center on a sunny Tahoe afternoon. That talent comes from years of experience, devotion to her art and a confident, friendly demeanor.
Now a professional dancer in New York City, Hanna’s roots are in Tahoe. And returning to visit her mountain hometown ” an obvious contrast from the fast-paced, hectic “starving artist” lifestyle she leads in New York ” is like taking a breath of fresh air, mixed with some culture shock, she said.
“It’s almost kind of hard to leave,” Hanna said, reminiscing about the small-town life in a romanticized fashion.
Her Tahoe background gave her a valuable perspective on life in New York City, she said. “The grass is greener on the other side.”
Hanna grew up surrounded by the ski industry on Tahoe’s West Shore. But she was “captivated by dance at a very young age.” Instead of watching Nickelodeon, Hanna said she preferred musicals with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Hanna took her first dance class in Truckee when she was 5 years old. And from there, Hanna’s talent and passion drove her to the Nevada Festival Ballet School in Reno, intensive summer courses with prestigious ballet companies in New York City, and an apprenticeship with the Oakland Ballet. Her dance schedule gradually expanded from two classes a week to seven. Her mom, who shuttled Hanna between Reno and Tahoe, was committed to Hanna’s dance too.
“As it progresses you have to be there more ” and more and more and more and more,” the 24-year-old dancer said. “Gas was cheaper then.”
A student at North Tahoe High School, Hanna said ballet kept her isolated until she eventually took her “not so graceful exit out of North Tahoe,” and finished her studies through correspondence.
Soon enough, Hanna landed in New York City without a reason to leave.
“I had a very typical, ‘if I make it here, I’ll make it anywhere,'” Hanna said. And she made it, that is, after a few years of living the “broke bohemian” lifestyle full of auditions, classes in big dance studios and an endless list of side jobs, including a stint at a ski shop. “A lot of it is just being in the right place at the right time.”
Hanna found her perfect fit with Magloire’s New Chamber Ballet. His dance aesthetic for taller ballerinas with long, lean lines matched Hanna’s 5’8″ frame, Magloire said.
Magloire’s choreographic style is “bare bones ballet,” Hanna said. The company is comprised of six soloist dancers and two musicians, a pianist and a violinist. It’s “up close and personal,” with performances in an intimate studio setting, rather than a distant stage.
“The audience can hear us breathe; they can see our sweat,” Hanna said.
This summer is the New Chamber Ballet’s second season in residence at Lake Tahoe’s North Shore. For Hanna, the company’s visit is an opportunity to share a bit of culture with Tahoe’s youth.
“You have to be exposed to a lot to know what’s out there,” Hanna said. “I did know what was out there and that’s why it was hard to live here.”
Magloire said the New Chamber Ballet hopes to maintain an annual presence at the lake. It’s an opportunity to leave New York’s cultural bubble, he said. And it’s an opportunity to foster a connection with the audience.
“All the things that we know about ballet and feel about ballet, if we can’t teach them to the kids out here ” they’re worth nothing,” Magloire said.
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