Community Spotlight - Hannah Drover

Hannah Drover is a Choreographer, Dance Artist, & Entrepreneur based in St. John’s, NL. She runs a small business, Cherry Blossom Designs, specializing in custom dance wear and costumes.

Hannah has choreographed works for Kittiwake Dance Theatre, Neighbourhood Dance Work's Festival of New Dance, George Brown Dance Ensemble, The Garage Collective, and has created independent works with the support of Arts NL. Hannah recently completed a year-long residency as Kittiwake Dance Theatre’s inaugural Emerging Choreographer in Residence supported by the RBC Foundation. She is now entering her third year as a full-time soloist with Kittiwake Dance Theatre. Hannah graduated from the George Brown College Dance Performance program with Honours, and received the Dean’s Honour Medal, as well as the Ballet, Contact Dance, and Faculty Awards upon graduation.

Prior to college, she received her training and performance experience at Dance Studio East Professional Division, Kittiwake Dance Theatre, and Canada’s Ballet Jörgen. Hannah furthered her training through summer intensives with The Performance Research Program, Kenny Pearl's Emerging Artist Intensive, Canada's Ballet Jörgen Junior Company, and Arts Umbrella. Hannah seeks to enrich her creativity and artistic practice through collaboration with other artists, as well as movement research and development.

Tell me about yourself, who is Hannah Drover and what do you do for a living?

I’m a professional Dance Artist and Choreographer, as well as a full time soloist with Newfoundlands only professional ballet company, Kittiwake Dance Theatre. I also run my own small business, Cherry Blossom Designs, where I create custom dance wear and costumes!

How would you describe your personal fashion style?

I would say I have a very eclectic fashion style. I strive to find ways to follow my personal aesthetic while being super comfortable. I love wearing outfits that are versatile in a way that allows me to feel fashionable in public, but that I can also wear in the dance studio! I also adore vintage clothing and love accessorizing my outfits with vintage jewelry.

What is your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

I spend most of my downtime sewing and enjoying a good TV show. I love working on cultivating new leotard and skirt ideas while getting lost in a good story! I also really enjoy reading, and I try to make time for it every night. 

Did you always aspire to be involved within the dance industry? Or did you have dreams to do something else as a child?

I think I always wanted to pursue an artistic career path. There was a point in my young childhood when I wanted to be a professional painter, but very early on I realized that dance was my true passion. I’ve pursued it ever since! 

How has your life experiences influenced your work?

My life experiences have had a great amount of influence on my work. I am lucky - as an artist my work can be guided by my own personal interests and values.

Several years ago I created a work with the dancers of George Brown College entitled REM, which explored the mysteries of dreams. This was a fascinating experience, and it was a lot of fun to be inspired by the recounted stories of wild dreams that myself and each of the dancers have had. 

More recently, I created a 20 minute dance piece entitled Cara Alida, which I named after my late sister. This work was dedicated to all the loved ones that I have lost, as well as the loved ones of each of the dancers in the work. Creating this piece was a wonderful experience of reflection and celebration for the lives of some very special people.

The fact that my work allows me to do something like this is an amazing privilege that I’m very grateful for.

Could you describe your experience as Kittiwake Dance Theatres Emerging Choreographer in residence? What did you learn from this experience?

I learned so much from my experience as Kittiwake’s Emerging Choreographer in Residence! This opportunity gave me the chance to have mentoring sessions with established industry professionals and learn from their expertise and personal experiences. I had a lot of creative license to create based on my own inspiration and personal interests, including working directly with Kittiwake’s Musical Director Vernon Regher. I have had the chance to present this work in multiple venues already, and I’m very pleased to get the chance to bring it to the Arts and Culture Centre St. John’s stage as an accompanying piece before the premiere of Narnia!

No photo description available.

What's the most rewarding part of your career path?

There are so many aspects of my career that are incredibly rewarding. Watching your vision come to life on stage is a feeling like no other! Performing in shows that fulfill and challenge you to continually better yourself is something I enjoy tremendously. Dance requires a lot of repetition, but each performance is unique. That dichotomy is a fascinating and exciting thing to experience each time you step on stage. 

You have choreographed works for various organizations and festivals. How do you approach creating a new dance piece, and what inspires your creative process?  

Each creation process is unique, and that’s one of the things I love most about choreographing. With each new work, there are a lot of different factors to consider that influence my approach. I take into account the number of dancers I will be working with, what their personal strengths are, the venue, the length of the work, and the timeline for the creative process. I’m very inspired by music, and so I usually choose the music first, and allow that to inform my direction for the physicality of the work. Visualization is a big part of my creative process as well. Funnily enough, I do some of my best choreographing while laying in bed before going to sleep!

In fashion, movement is very important. Fabric selection always takes fluidity and structure into account when designing for different body types or to achieve a certain aesthetic. In dance performances, we see many beautiful costumes and they vary depending on the style of the dance. How do you think fashion and dance interact? Can you speak to how costume selection is important to telling the story in dance? 

Fashion and dance are such complimentary art forms. The right costuming selection can bring a dance work to new levels, and even transport the audience into the world of a performance. That’s why I consider the costuming very early on in the process whenever I choreograph something new. The colour scheme, shape, and flow of the dancer’s clothing sets up the atmosphere of a performance in a way nothing else can. I think that’s a big part of where my initial interest in learning how to create dance wear and costumes came from.

Do you feel that art of all forms inspires your work?

It’s certainly true that all art forms can inspire and inform dance in myriad ways. I have previously used paintings and sculptures as a starting point for my choreography, and I enjoy finding new ways to be inspired by or incorporate different art forms into my creative process.

What’s your favourite thing about Johnny Ruth? 

I love the atmosphere and style of Johnny Ruth. It’s the kind of store I can walk into and feel calm but also inspired. Johnny Ruth suits my desire for the balance between style and comfort! 

Collaboration seems to be an important part of your artistic practice. Can you talk about some of your experiences collaborating with other artists and how this has impacted your work?

Collaboration is an incredible source of creative inspiration! I’ve choreographed collaboratively several times with my best friend, Zoë Vallée, and we operate so seamlessly with each other. This ease allows us to create things that neither of us could’ve imagined on our own!

I also collaborated on a contemporary dance work with an amazing friend of mine, Alison Viegas, and she inspired me greatly to explore different movement vocabulary from what comes most naturally to me. Working with someone like that is such an exciting way to expand your perception and break out of your habits.

As I mentioned before, I’ve also been collaborating with my mentor, Martin Vallée, on the creation of Narnia. His depth of knowledge and experience in creating and presenting professional dance is invaluable and I feel so lucky to get to work with him and learn from him each day.  

QUICK! You find yourself on a deserted island, what 3 items would you like to have?

A tarp, a machete, and a flare gun. I intend to survive! 

But is it weird that I'd also want to take my slippers... my feet are always cold! 

What’s the next place on your travel bucket list?

I’m currently planning a trip to Prague with my best friend! I have a great appreciation for unique and stylized architecture, so I can’t wait to visit there and take in all of the beautiful sights! 

Why do you choose to call Newfoundland home?

I know it’s cheesy to say, but home is where the heart is. My family is so important to me, and when I lived in Toronto while attending George Brown College’s dance program, I missed them tremendously. I also missed the ocean and the atmosphere of home. There’s something special about this place that the big city couldn’t compare to!

What are some projects, events, or groups that you are involved with now?

I dance and choreograph with Kittiwake during the day, and teach dance in the evenings at Dance Studio East and Connie Parsons School of Dance.

I’m currently getting ready to perform in Kittiwake Dance Theatre’s production of Narnia, in which I will dance the role of Lucy, (a dream come true!). I had the privilege of co-choreographing this ballet with my mentor, Martin Vallée.

Once that show is finished we will be going on tour through Central Newfoundland to perform with Ballet Kelowna, and then we jump straight into rehearsals for Kittiwake’s summer performances of Ballet at Bowring.

We will also be holding auditions for The Nutcracker near the end of August, so if you’d like to be a part of the show check out the audition dates on Kittiwake’s Facebook page!

No photo description available.

How do you see the NL dance industry evolving in the future, and how do you hope to contribute to this evolution?

I feel very confident that the dance industry and community will continue to grow and flourish. There are so many wonderful young dancers in the community, and there is a lot of energy among my peers to continue the forward trajectory of dance in our province. 

Over the last several years, professional dance has been supported tremendously by various organizations including Kittiwake Dance Theatre, and the RBC Emerging Artist Foundation. This foundation provided funding to allow myself and my colleague Abby Rowe the chance to choreograph and present new professional dance works with a live orchestra. I think these opportunities are just the beginning of many things to come in the future of dance here in NL.

No photo description available.

Your career path is very exciting! You have choreographed several great projects, with Narnia as your biggest project yet; what are your plans for the future? 

I’m looking forward to a bright future of opportunities working with Kittiwake Dance Theatre as a full time soloist, and hope to continue choreographing new works with them in the years to come! 

What do you want the community to know?

I’m super excited about the upcoming performances of Narnia! It’s a new ballet that I co-choreographed with Martin Vallée, and it’s being presented by Kittiwake Dance Theatre on April 1st at the Arts and Culture Centre. I’ve always really loved this story, and it holds a special kind of nostalgia for a lot of people. When I was still a student, I mentioned to Martin that I thought the story would make a really great ballet, and he said something along the lines of “maybe someday." It’s so exciting to see this long-term dream come to life! 

To learn more about Kittiwakes newest ballet, Narnia, co-choreographed by Hannah Drover, click here.

To purchase tickets, click here.

For more information about Kittiwake Dance Theatre and to get involved with a community of people who are committed to supporting professional dance in this province, click here.

For a sneak peak into some of the amazing dance works of Hannah Drover, past, present, and future, check out her website here. 

Check out Cherry Blossom Designs NL facebook page or instagram page.

Editor: Jennifer Kirby