Hannah Martin - making the switch from gymnast to dancer
Even the country’s best athletes are being impacted by lockdown. Dancers and gymnasts in particular are having to adapt to virtual training and that’s taken a bit of getting used to for everyone. We’ve been chatting to Greatest Dancer contestant Hannah Martin, who’s given us some insight into what she’s working towards at the moment – as well as life in lockdown.
Name: Hannah Martin
Current dance school attending: I work with my ballet teacher Mary Goodhew at the dance programme in Ibstock Place School and Dance Gems, but will be attending full-time vocational school in September in the Graduate year of Elmhurst Ballet School.
Early Gymnastics career: When I began rhythmic gymnastics it came very naturally to me because of my flexibility however I lacked the strength that was required to progress in the sport. After placing badly in my first beginning competitions, I decided I needed to change something— my mindset and my training. Working closely with my mum (who was training to be a rhythmic gymnastics coach at the time) we increased my training hours and focussed on my weaknesses and saw tremendous results. From not even qualifying for the British Championships the previous year to winning the U12 British Championships title I took a big leap in just under a year. From there we pushed harder than ever and I had the incredible privilege to represent my country at the 2016 European Championships, 2018 Commonwealth Games, and 2018 World Championships, all of which required extensive qualification processes. I will never forget these experiences because it formed the foundation for my dance career.
What made you switch to dance: Dance has always been a massive part of my life. My mum was a dancer and led a dance troop at our church which I was always involved in from a young age. I started ballet classes at the age of 3 and carried on classical ballet training throughout my career as a gymnast.
What is your favourite style of dance: Lyrical, Contemporary, and Ballet
What was the biggest lesson you took from the Greatest Dancer: I learnt so much! Watching the acts prepare each week in their own unique way was inspiring and drawing from everyone’s energy on the show was exciting for me as an artist. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me as a choreographer to explore new styles of movement each week, which was intense and sometimes difficult, but I feel I have come out with so much more knowledge and breadth of styles that I can perform. It also taught me how to cope with the pressure of social media attention, as this is not something I had previously encountered in such a high volume.
What advice would you give to any gymnasts looking to switch to dance: Find a style of dance that you love and fuse your skills with it. Don’t be shy to explore what movement you can create fusing your gymnastics with dance. Be ready to work hard and challenge your body with new styles and movements that might first feel uncomfortable. It is a difficult process but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
What’s next for you: Lots of training, especially in this quarantine period. I am trying to work on my weaknesses and improve my ballet technique, even in the small space of my humble garage. In September I will be attending Elmhurst Ballet School where I will be completing my final year of training before I start auditioning for companies. I am open to every opportunity that comes my way though, whatever life may bring.
What do you like to wear to dance in: It depends on the style. If I am doing ballet, I like wearing your average leotard and tights and occasionally a skirt as this gives a very presentable and professional look. If I am doing a contemporary class I love wearing my ilogear leggings and a sports top, similar to the style that I used to wear when I was a gymnast.
What are you doing right now to stay fit: We have a cross trainer here at home so I am doing my cardio fitness on that and then daily ballet classes as well as teaching classes myself. I am also increasing my hours of conditioning and stretching to improve my body control for my dance.
What dance style would you love to learn: I’d love to be able to improve my body isolations, I think this can enhance a dance whether it be commercial or contemporary.