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Finding Her Voice: Hannah Galway

Hannah Galway grew up in Comox, Vancouver Island and has been dancing since she was four. She graduated from Canada’s National Ballet School and joined the National Ballet of Canada’s apprentice program in 2017. Hannah now dances in the corps de ballet with the National Ballet of Canada, and recently originated a lead role in Crystal Pite’s new ballet, “Angels’ Atlas.”

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I only recently started listening to music while warming up for class or a show. I used to think it would distract me, but I’ve found it’s all about listening to the right music in order to prepare myself for the day. I love listening to Mac Ayres or Rex Orange County—they’re fun, mellow, and generally make songs with a pretty happy sound.

I’m not sure I can decide between the stage or rehearsal. Both are special to me, but in very different ways. In rehearsal, I rarely feel stressed because I have time to work and experiment with the way I approach the repertoire. With regards to my time on stage, I often feel nervous and anxious before I perform. Once I am on stage and I have the opportunity to share myself with the audience, I find it transformative & those anxieties disappear.

Some advice I would share with my younger self is that you should be kinder to yourself. That working hard and beating yourself up doesn’t mean the same thing. I would tell myself that you can be diligent, and focused, but perhaps it doesn’t also have to come at the cost of sadness and suffering. Having gone through those difficult times I am now able to fully appreciate the happiness I am so lucky to feel today.

One of my favourite performances was with one of my best friends Alexi. As apprentices, we performed the Raymonda pas de deux from act 1 for one of our YOUdance shows in Regent Park. Something about that performance was so intimate, not only with Alexi, but with the audience and even myself. But perhaps most recently, dancing in the Kennedy Centre was absolutely surreal, and having my parents in the audience supporting me made it even more special.

To me, the future of dance will care less about the aesthetics and care more about being moved by the pure art and joy of dance. When I go to a show, I want to be moved in some way and most often it’s not from how high someone’s legs are or how many pirouettes they can do. It’s from their artistry and sincerity when they give themselves to the stage and audience that affects me the most.

I also hope dance in the the future will be more accessible. I love dance, I love that I am lucky enough to call it my job, but I am saddened that it is an art form that only so few people have the privilege to do and watch. It has changed my life in ways that I cannot describe, both from my experiences on and off stage. I can only hope that in the future more and more people will have the opportunity to personally feel the same.

If I wasn’t a dancer, I think I might be an art history teacher. It was my favourite subject in school, and I had the best teacher in the subject at Canada’s National Ballet School. She was so passionate about teaching and her fascination about the arts’ effect on society and individuals was infectious. I love to learn about why art was created, what it was saying at its time, and why it’s still relevant today.

My dream role for years has been Tatiana from “Onegin” ever since I saw it performed by NBOC when I was in school. The musical score is phenomenal, it evokes all the appropriate emotions depending on the moods of the characters, which I feel would be such a dream to dance to. The role is dramatic and strong, I think it would be a nice change to be a female character who doesn’t die at the end of a ballet. I want to be strong enough to say ‘no,’ I want my voice to be heard on stage as a woman and as an artist, and I feel Tatiana does exactly this.

I recently performed in a show called “Zingara” by Echo Chamber Toronto and one of the pieces of music brought me to tears. It might be one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. When I listen to it, I feel inspired. I hear sounds of kindness, forgiveness and a yearning for a loved one. It was composed by George Enescu, and it is String Octet, Opus 7. Please do yourself a favour a listen to this masterpiece.

My secret talent is that I paint in my free time, mostly landscapes.

Toronto inspires me because it makes me aware of how small I am, of how many people I do not know and how unimportant I am. Yet when I think of my job & all the people it’s connected me to and all the audiences that have seen the company perform, it makes me feel like I have a place & a voice in this big city. The contrast is pretty amazing.

My ideal Sunday is cleaning my place, and then doing absolutely nothing!

One of the hardest experiences I’ve had to work through as a dancer is an injury I had in my ankle last year. It lasted so long, and it pained me both physically & emotionally because I could not perform in rehearsals or on stage how I wish I could have. It taught me that I need to take care of myself, and not to wait so long before asking for help.

With regards to my greatest experiences as a dancer, I prefer to keep these special moments to myself. Such intimate moments are often so special because they cannot be described with words, and I fear that if I try, it will never capture how wonderfully personal they all are to me.

Penelope Ford

Penelope is the founding editor of Fjord Review, international magazine of dance and ballet. Penelope graduated from Law and Arts with majors in philosophy and languages from the University of Melbourne, Australia, before turning to the world of dance. She lives in Italy.



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