Thursday, May 02, 2002

Dedicated dancer well on her way at 12

Next Wave / Who's up and coming

By Carol Norris
Enquirer contributor

        An hour-and-a-half ballet class Monday through Thursday, a two-hour private session with Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev on Friday, class and rehearsal all day Saturday and a sometime private session again on Sunday . . .

        When asked if obsession is too strong a word to describe her interest in dance, 12-year-old Hannah Spiegel says no, obsession describes it pretty well.

        With so much talent and so little meat on her 4-foot-7 frame, the sprite touched the heart of many in ballet tech ohio's production of Pinocchio in February.

        Days before that she won a gold medal at the Youth America Grand Prix in Chicago, a prestigious competition for classically trained young dancers. Hannah moves on to finals in New York this weekend for summer scholarship prizes and a performance at New York's Alice Tully Hall.

Turning flips at 3

        A perpetual mover, Hannah was turning flips in gymnastics at age 3 until someone screamed “No more, Hannah. Go home.” So she followed older sisters Allison, 20, and Shannon, 15, to competitive dance teams, winning top prizes at 8 and 9. When she was asked to give others a chance, she found an outlet for her energies: classical ballet at Claudia Rudolf Barrett's Foster studio.

        Mr. Kremnev and his wife, Anna, teach at ballet tech.

        “Hannah was much younger than anybody in our class, and I couldn't do anything with her,” Mr. Kremnev remembers. “She was in the center all the time and looked at the mirror.”

        In frustration, he had Ms. Reznik take a look. That's when they decided to add private coaching.

        “She's only been on pointe for about two years, yet her technical and artistic levels exceed that of many professional dancers. She is truly amazing,” Ms. Barrett says.

Sites set high

        Hannah is determined to dance professionally with the biggest U.S. ballet company, American Ballet Theatre.

        “I want to be the Swan Queen in Swan Lake, but I want to do Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, too, because I saw Anna do it, and it made me cry.”

        The daughter of Lynne and Chip Spiegel of Western Hills, Hannah is home-schooled at her request and spends about 2 1/2 hours a day in an Internet home school program year-round so she can finish high school by 17. That's when she says she's heading to New York.

        She ignores the detractors who say she's too short. “I guess I'll have to be a soloist then.”

        Mr. Kremnev nixes the nay-sayers, too. “Too short? At 12? I was short at 14 and (grew) a lot between 15 and 17. Anna was too fat at 14 and was told she'd never dance in a tutu.”

Family sacrifices

        Mrs. Spiegel admits Hannah's passion is often hard on family life. Her sisters no longer dance; brother Cody, 18, leaves for college next year. Now it's Hannah's schedule that shapes the family's weekly activities; meals at home are a rarity.

        Hannah watches the movie Center Stage for inspiration and skips Friday night parties to rehearse.

        Whether any of this will change when she becomes a teen-ager? She doesn't have time to think about that now. She's too busy preparing for another gold medal dance competition.


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