I had the opportunity recently to ask Hannah Saito some questions about her journey as a ballerina. Hannah is an amazing dancer, she graces the stage with incredible poise and grace. Her love for ballet is incredible. Below are her responses.
Q1: When did you start ballet?
When I was 3 years old
Q2: Where do you currently dance?
I train at the Prima Youth Classical Academy
Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?
I have been pointe for about 2 and a half years
Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?
I wear Grishko 2007
Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?
I started dancing with all of my friends from Pre-School
Q6: What is your favourite variation?
There are so many variations I love it’s impossible to choose!!!
Q7: What company would you love to work for?
As long as I am a ballerina and dancing everyday I am happy anywhere!
Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?
My favourite moments are when you come off stage after a performance and knowing that you did your best and that your hard work was so worth it!
Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.
The dancers that inspire me most are Fumi Kaneko, Yasmine Nagdhi and Skylar Brandt
Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?
To always believe in your self and know that if you put the work in you will always get what you put in
Q11: Advise you’d give a young version of yourself?
To always think about artistry! Sometimes I would only just think of the technique and forget about the artistry but ballet is an art form.
Q12: Best thing about being a ballerina?
The feeling of knowing you have done your best!
Q13: Hardest thing about being a ballerina?
There are times you will feel discouraged but that’s Ballet! One thing that makes ballet so addictive is the rollercoaster of emotions.
Q14: It seems like such hard work, did you ever have days growing up where you were like “ugh maybe I’ll just pick an easier career so I can be like a normal teenager”?
I have never really thought about another life. I just love ballet so much and I all I want to do is to be a ballerina!
Q15: Classical or romantic tutu?
Ooh!!! I love both but I I would have to say I do love a classical tutu!
Q16: Have you ever suffered a serious injury?
I have always been very lucky to have never been seriously injured
Q17: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?
I love going on walks with my family by the beach and playing with my little pet cat!
I had the pleasure of asking the incredible American contortionist Eva Lou Rhinelander some questions about her journey as a contortionist. Eva is an amazing contortionist and when she takes to the stage and performs and showcases her astounding skills, she leaves the audience in awe and mesmerized by what the human body can do. Eva is an incredible performer and has an incredible future ahead, she’s one of only a handful of American contortionists who can do the Marinelli Bend . Below are her responses.
Bio: Eva Lou Rhinelander is an 11th grader from Boston, MA. She has toured for 6 summers in the Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour where she performs hula hooping, contortion, handstands, wire & clowning. During the school year Eva competes in dance and is a Level 9 rhythmic gymnast
I started learning contortion around 2016, when I first began to take handbalance lessons. I was 11 years old.
Q2: How did you start contortion?
I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was 10, so I was already learning moves that are considered contortion. But it wasn’t until I auditioned for the 2016 Circus Smirkus Big Top Tour that I learned the circus term contortion. I couldn’t hold a handstand, and I didn’t know anything about contortion. After that audition, I enrolled in handbalance lessons, so between the strength and stretching, I was able to start doing contortion tricks.
Q3: What inspired you to start doing contortion?
I was already a naturally flexible kid, so after my first year at Circus Smirkus, the coaches and directors asked me to start learning contortion so I could be in the act the next year. It was a natural fit!
Here’s a link to Eva’s first contortion act (the Octopus Act in the 2017 Circus Smirkus show): https://youtu.be/0kmw3fuvEI8 (Eva is in the middle in the starting position as the head of the Octopus)
Q4: How often do you train and for how long?
I train an average of 4 hours a day, 6 days a week, in a variety of skills that all help with contortion. These include rhythmic gymnastics, dance, acro, handstands and contortion.
Q5: What is your favorite contortion move/trick?
My favorite contortion move is contortion pushup. I had to work a really long time to be able to muscle up, so whenever I do a contortion pushup, it is a reminder of the payoff.
Q6: What has been your best contortion experience?
My best contortion experience was learning from so many amazing coaches during the “quarantine” from the spring of 2020 through summer 2021. I started training online from my house, and improved so much.
My ultimate contortion goal is to have solid one arms on both sides, and be able to move around into different positions in one arm. I love balancing handstands so much and want to master them.
Q8: Best advice you’d give someone interested in contortion?
My best advice is to just keep practicing. You won’t be able to reach your goals unless you work for them, so keep training! And do 100 push-ups everyday!
Q9: Best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I have learned/received over the years of training contortion and handstands is to train on both sides. It is so important to have equal strength and flexibility on both right and left shoulders, splits, wrists, legs, etc. because it is really easy to fall into bad habits which limits the tricks you can do, and you can also injure yourself in the long run.
Q10: Biggest contortion inspiration?
It is really hard for me to choose just one contortion inspiration. There are so many amazing people who do contortion, as well as so many approaches and techniques to the tricks. I am inspired by the variety of learning that contortion provides.
Q11: What does a usual day of training look like?
A usual day of training consists of me going to school in the morning, coming home from school and doing homework for maybe an hour, and then rushing off to either gymnastics or dance until 9 p.m.. On days where I train contortion, I stay home and take online classes.
Q12: What is your preparation for a performance like?
Preparation for a performance consists of planning the theme of the act for the particular show or event, then choosing music, and shifting my act to fit it. I have a couple baseline acts that are always ready to go, so I’m always happy to be in a show!
Q13: What or who is your biggest motivator in contortion?
My biggest motivator in contortion is the feeling of getting stronger and achieving new tricks. I love to keep improving, and being challenged all the time is why I love contortion so much. There’s always something new to learn.
Q14: What goes through your head when you’re doing a contortion performance?
I actually try my best not to think while I perform contortion. I can get really easily distracted or psych myself out easily, so as long as I am just doing what I know and remembering my act, everything will go accordingly.
Q15: Do you get nervous? How do you overcome your nerves?
I do get nervous before shows, but more in an excited sort of way. The best way that I can calm myself is to think through my act and practice my hardest tricks before I go on.
Q16: Describe yourself in 5 words
Motivated, Perfectionist, Sleepy, Hungry, and Sassy
I had the pleasure of asking the incredible Russian circus performer Svetlana Mikhaylova some questions about her journey as a performer. Svetlana is an amazing performer and when she takes to the stage and performs and showcases her astounding skills, she leaves the audience in awe and mesmerized by what the human body can do. Svetlana is an incredible performer and has an incredible future ahead. Below are her responses.
(Translated using Google Translate)
Q1: How long have done contortion for?
I have been learning rubber elements for half a year, and developing flexibility for 5 years
Q2: How did you start contortion?
I sat on the splits, bent my back, and then I started trying new elements
Q3: How often do you attend training and for how long?
training every day for 5-7 hours
Q4: What has been your best contortion experience?
The best experience with Alesya Lavercheva
Q5: What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?
I don’t have a dream, there are many goals to which I go
Q6: Best advise you’ve received?
If I suffer for a long time, then everything will work out