Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Sterling

19 November 2018 Published in News and Announcements

We spoke with former Ballet Program student, Hannah Sterling about her experience at the U.

When did you graduate from the U?
I actually have not fully graduated from the U yet, because I was hired to dance with Ballet West in November of 2015. So, I left the U full time to go be a part of Ballet West II. I am currently now in the business school at the U, for marketing. 

Which Program were you in?
I was originally in the Ballet program within the dance department at the University. I was a joint trainee with Ballet West and the University of Utah. My first fall semester was in 2013. 

What have you done since graduation?
Since my time out of full-time school and out of the dance program at the U, I have been dancing with Ballet West. I was in their second company, Ballet West II, for about three years. I danced lead roles in excerpts from Bournenville and performed the lead role in a Janis Joplin piece, choreographed by Ballet West resident and international choreographer Nicolo Fonte. Other ballet repertoire I danced included Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Symphony in C, Chaconne, Madame Butterfly, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Serenade. I also started to pursue my business degree in marketing, where I am now a part of the business school at the University of Utah. I have also been privileged to speak to wide audiences about dancing and pursuing a higher education and how important that is to one’s future. I have spoken at the Salt Lake City YAGP regional, numerous schools around Utah, Arizona, and Philadelphia, as well as at the University of Utah. 

What are you up to now?
Currently, I have started a non-profit, called Project L.E.A.P. It is a foundation that gives every child the opportunity to participate in the arts, through dance. It is my belief that a family’s income or economic status should not be the thing that stands in the way of a child having dance as a part of their life. I also have competed in a competition within the Miss America Organization and received the title of Miss Timponaogos 2019. I am currently doing my year of service and preparing to compete in the Miss Utah competition this upcoming June, where I will be representing my social impact initiative of helping more children to have the opportunity to participate in the arts, through dance. I am taking a short period of time off of professional dancing to pursue my business degree at the moment. 

What was the most valuable thing you learned from your time at the School of Dance?
The most valuable lesson that I learned from dancing in the Ballet Department at the U was how important having an education is in today’s day in age. Since I first enrolled at the U and then started dancing professionally, I realized how much a higher education can help me for the rest of my life. I love dancing so much, but I also know that it is not going to last forever. To have a higher education gives me the ability to have a more supportive job for later in life post my professional dance career. I have seen too many peers from my time working as a professional ballet dancer that have no plans or any idea what to do with their lives after they take their final bow on stage. Also, I learned at the U that an injury can happen at any time and in any place. Having a degree to back yourself up is an amazing plan B.

What do you wish you had known as a student?
The one thing I wish I would have known when I was still a student was that it is okay to not rush things. Everything happens within it’s own time. I came to the U originally injured from a surgery and I had the strong intention of getting back into dancing quickly. I grew up training with The Rock School for Dance Education, based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The mindset that I grew up with was to work hard and get fast results. The school ran itself like a professional environment, which later helped me when I was professional. However, when I first came to the U it was Maggie Tesch, Calvin Kitten, and Sharee Lane that continually worked with me and told me it was okay to take some time and get back to my full strength. 

How did your time at the U support your career?
My time at the U supported my career because I was able to not only start a professional experience by dancing as a trainee with Ballet West, but I was able to get a jump start on my higher education. If the U had not had that joint trainee program, my higher education may have been put on hold. The training at the U is also top notch. The instructors truly were supportive of me and worked around my schedule when I started to receive opportunities with Ballet West. I will always be a Ute and love this dance department! It was definitely a great stepping stone for my career!