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Chapter 5, Hannah Carter: My Road to the States

Principal dancer with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

Photo by Duane Rieder

After two years in a ballet company in Europe, I felt like it was time to move on and I wanted to dance in America. After a long year of auditioning and feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere, I came across Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, I didn’t know anything about the company at the time and after hours of research and youtube videos, I really liked what I saw and sent my audition tape to them. They liked me just as much and asked if I could come out to Pittsburgh to audition, I was upfront with my director about looking elsewhere from the beginning of the season but unfortunately due to multiple injuries in the company he couldn’t spare me for a few days. After much back and forth with PBT I ended up having a phone call with the Artistic Director, Terrence S. Orr, and he offered me a corps de ballet position with the company right there and then! I accepted and was over the moon but now came the really hard work. Obtaining a U.S. Visa. It was mid-April and PBT’s season starts the end of July so we were already behind.

I had to collect references from past colleagues, teachers, and répétiteurs, submit proof of casting in shows and anything and everything that had my name in to do with my schooling and career. I did not expect it to be anywhere near as tough as it was. I handed in my resignation to my director, finished the season and moved back home to England for the summer, boxes stayed packed and I was ready to fly to America as soon as I could.

Photo by Aimee DiAndrea

Months went by and it was radio silence from the consulate. The end of July came and went, PBT’s season started without me. It was hard to know I was missing my first day of work but I was still positive at this point and had hope, I checked my emails 50 times a day or more to see if there was any news. The company manager was great at keeping in contact and he would update me as soon as he heard anything from the lawyer.

Finally in September we heard something, they needed more evidence that I was the best person for the job, they wanted reviews of my shows I had performed in with words written like ‘fantastic, brilliant, superstar’, the trouble was that I was a young 21 year old in the corps de ballet, I didn’t have a single review written about me! I was devastated that I was missing the season but PBT was incredible, they could have given up and given the job to someone else but they kept pushing and we submitted more references from people that knew me. Christmas came, New Year came and still nothing, It was time to start auditioning for other companies in case this wasn’t going to go my way. I did the auditions but it wasn’t what I wanted, I had a job! I was so mad and frustrated that I couldn’t be there doing it! Even though I had never visited PBT or Pittsburgh I somehow knew that was where I was meant to be.

Photo by Yoshiaki Nakano

Finally in March the petition for my visa was approved almost an entire year since we had started the process. It was one of the happiest and most relieving feelings I have ever felt. I was offered the job on the 23rd April 2012 and on the 15th April 2013 I flew to Pittsburgh for the first time ever. I'm now in my 7th season with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre as a Principal about to dance Giselle this weekend, It was by far the toughest challenge I have faced in my life but it has been worth it and more.