Hannah has been dancing since she was two-and-a-half, when her preschool teacher noticed her motor skills and suggested a class. Over the years, she has studied many styles; jazz funk is her favorite. If she didn't dance, she says, she would be a completely different person.
“Once you turn the music on, you just start moving and you forget stress and feel free. Everyone who dances says that, but it’s so true and so right in so many ways.”
Hannah's younger brother, Pate '23, used to wear her tap shoes around the house and kept asking to take class, too. Their parents relented, thinking it would be a one-off, but it wasn’t. "He's a better dancer than I am!" Hannah says.
Hannah and Pate performed together on hoverboards at last year's Homecoming Pep Rally. Through the years, Hannah has performed at several school talent shows, and she was excited to join the newly formed dance team this year.
For the past four years, both have been working hard, dancing at Element Huntsville and at DC Dance Factory in Nashville. They travel for auditions and for jobs. Pate has been on “Dance Moms” and was in L.A. this year, filming a show for Nickelodeon.
Last year, they both auditioned and were invited to perform in Justin Bieber's "Promise" tour. Dancing for an audience of 22,000 people was electrifying and she realized that being able to go on tour with an artist and perform like that is her dream. Hannah has several alternate dreams in case that doesn't happen; college is part of all of them, one way or another, either immediately after Randolph or after a gap year. "Your career as a dancer only lasts into your 20s, because of the toll it takes on your body," she notes. "I want to use it to the fullest."
“I hope that my teachers will remember me as someone who stayed focused and never gave up. I was told that I was a mediocre dancer and could only ever hope to be average, but once I started traveling look how far I have come in four years. I would want my message to be this: If you have a goal, don't ever let anyone set you back. Work hard and stay thankful.”
Kate Abel ’18 photographed Hannah for an editorial photography assignment in Advanced Photography. Here she wrote about her intentions before making her portrait: Hannah Stutts has a lot of special insight and has had many opportunities that not many students get to experience. She’s getting to live her dream at a young age by working in the professional industry of dance. I decided to utilize an interior with very a simple background. For the lighting, I was inspired by the work of Allen Birnbach. He photographs dancers as well and his lighting choices make it look as if they are performing in a spotlight/on stage. I want to represent how Hannah is more than just a dancer in Huntsville, but a performer around the country. Erin Baiano uses simple backgrounds that look as if they are set on stage. I want to use this type of setting to show the professional aspect behind Hannah without drawing attention away from her.
This story is from a series of thumbnail portraits in the forthcoming Spring 2017 Randolph Magazine, in a feature titled “Learning in the Community: Transformative Experiences.” The student portraits that accompany these profiles were created in an editorial photography project in Peter Townsend’s Advanced Photography class. Hannah was photographed by Kate Abel ’18. Other photo: Merrimack summer volunteers from Randolph Hannah, Pate, Quinn, Virginia, and marketing intern Peter Voight '14