From boots to barre

Photos courtesy of Buckle B Productions

F.E. Warren Air Force Base – A dimly lit theater begins to fill up as spectators trickle in with a program in one hand and a drink in the other. The only light comes from that which is shining onto the stage. Behind the stage is Brittany Hill tuning out the noise of the growing crowd, with earbuds gracefully playing the music of the ballet. The movements dance through her mind as she prepares to take the stage.

By the time 2nd Lt. Brittany Hill, 321 Missile Squadron missileer, was twelve years old, she was thinking about dancing ballet long-term. She was placed in the highest level at her ballet school meanwhile pursuing dance competitions and attending highly selective pre-professional training programs across the country.

“I think I was 12 when I decided I wanted ballet to be my future,” said Hill. “I was so passionate about it and had dedicated most of my free time to training. It was a huge sacrifice to make from such a young age.”

With her heart set on becoming a ballerina, Hill set her eyes on one of the 12 coveted Juilliard dancing spots for women.

“The audition tour was very nerve-wracking not only because the panel judging the auditions, but also because all of the cuts they were making,” said Hill. “On the day I auditioned, we started with over a hundred dancers and by the end of the ten-hour audition process, we ended up with about eight dancers left. I had to wait about three weeks until the audition tour was over to hear back. It’s so competitive that I had mentally prepared myself to not be selected, but I eventually got a call about my acceptance.”

Ballerinas looking to make a career in dance typically have two routes they can take. The first option is just dancing. They can either become a freelance dancer and audition with individual choreographers for each role they would like or sign a contract with a single dance company. The second option is to go to college and pursue a degree in dance, followed by one of the variants in the first option.

Going to Juilliard meant Hill chose the second option. Going to the school meant she gained tremendous dancing experience alongside other highly skilled ballerinas and world-renowned choreographers. Additionally, after four years in Juilliard, she walked away with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts to fall back on.

“A lot of ballerinas go straight into professional dancing, but I wanted an education to fall back on,” said Hill. “Looking back on it, I’m glad I got a degree because my knee injury made me stop dancing for a while.”

After sustaining the injury, Hill had to put dancing on the back burner. With a Bachelors’s degree, she pursued another lifelong dream of joining the military, although earlier than expected.

With family ties in the Army and Marines, Hill joined the Air Force and became a missileer after Officer Training School.

Now stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Hill has once again stepped into the stage spotlight.

Since moving here, she has been working with Ballet Wyoming teaching master classes, allowing dancers to focus on honing in on their ballet technique and artistry.

“While I was waiting for OTS I was teaching dance and that’s when I realized my passion for teaching,” said Hill. “It was my way of staying involved while dealing with an injury. Even while being in the Air Force I continued to teach while at Vandenberg and here at Ballet Wyoming.”

After three years off from preforming, Ballet Wyoming asked Hill to be a principal guest artist in their upcoming show Dracula.

According to the Ballet Wyoming website, the dancers will perform an original dance-theater twist on Bram Stoker’s masterwork, Dracula. The show features choreography by Jennifer Deckert, University of Wyoming associate professor of dance, and music composed and performed by Sean Stone, University of Wyoming assistant lecturer of musical theater.

Since being chosen for the role of Mina Harker in June, Hill has been attending regular rehearsals leading up to opening night on Oct. 25, 2019.

The 321st MS has supported Hill’s ballet pursuits throughout her time here. She says the 321st MS is known for having each other’s backs. They are a close squadron and she would not be able to perform without their support and assistance.

“I really wasn’t expecting the kind of support they all gave me, from my fellow crew-dog, to the scheduling team and squadron leadership,” said Hill. “There’s no way I could’ve been able to balance teaching and dancing with the kind of schedule we have as Missileers without their support and assistance. The scheduling team especially worked with me to ensure I would be able to attend all the final important tech rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and all the performances.”

Since spending three years away from performing, her knee has had some time to heal, allowing this performance to be her comeback in the ballet world. With that being said, the Air Force is Hill’s top priority and she is thankful for Ballet Wyoming for working with her unique schedule as a missileer.

“I felt sad when I thought I’d have to completely give up my identity as a dancer,” said Hill. “While I love being in the Air Force, I’ll always still be a ballerina. The fact that I now get to do all three things, teach, dance and serve, is a dream. I feel such balance in my life. It’s been a huge blessing.”

The entire cast of Dracula gave a performance of a lifetime. The performances ran October 25, 26 and 27.

The executive director of Dracula, Barbara Sandick said it is an interactive, immersive and whole new experience in a unique space. Spectators will be up close and personal with the dancers and the staging. They will have to enter through a train station, taking them on a journey through London and the Carpathians with twists, turns and bites at every stop.

For more information on Dracula, head over to https://www.balletwyoming.com/curren-performance.

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Photos courtesy of Buckle B Productions


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