By Margaret Stewart
Kaitlin Hill has been a dancer all her life. Like many young girls, her parents were the first ones to enroll her in her first dance class.
“It was just one of those things that my parents put me in,” Hill said. “I did it for fun a couple times a week and it was just one of those things that was like 30 minutes of tap, 30 minutes of jazz and one hour of ballet so it was not serious at all.”
After her move to North Carolina, Hill went to Triangle Youth Ballet where she first experienced performing ballets in their entirety. The productions were more demanding than the more traditional recitals which forced Hill to take her craft and her self more seriously.
“We did “Dracula” or “Giselle” in the fall, then we’d do “The Nutcracker” and then a spring concert,” Hill said.
These performances drove Hill’s passion to pursue ballet further. She applied and danced in a summer intensive hosted by The Los Angeles Ballet at the age of 15 and got in. The next summer, Hill applied to another Los Angeles summer intensive hosted by Joffery Ballet School. Not only was she offered a spot in the intensive, Hill was invited to attend the school based in New York City.
At 16, Hill moved to New York City with her father and began to live and breathe all things ballet.
“The thing with the summer intensive is that it is such a short period of time and there is such a wide range of people coming from all over. I think it is a really good experience but it is completely different to the dedication that is required of you when you are a full time student because you’re not just taking ballet class,” Hill said. “You’re taking partnering, you’re taking Cunningham, we had Horton, you’re taking anatomy, you’re taking all sorts of classes. It’s a conservatory based program.”
Naturally, Hill’s schedule demanded physical, and mental, exhaustion.
“Your body is just screaming at you and sometimes you’re like ‘why am I doing this,'” Hill said.
The Joffery program is three years long. By the time Hill was wrapping up in The Big Apple, she was a senior and searching for colleges.
“There was a booth at one of our performances highlighting different dancing programs and Brockport was there,” Hill said.
Hill came to The College at Brockport in the fall of 2017 having already been accepted to the Department of Dance, but physically unable to participate.
“When I first came in I wasn’t dancing,” Hill said. “I had an OCD lesion of my talus bone. So, it was just a little bit of bone that just chipped away and broke off and the cartilage surrounding it died and then it was just floating in my ankle for a couple months.”
The injury was from the constant wear and tear on the same part of her foot, day in and day out. Hill says that her time in recovery, though four months longer than she originally anticipated, helped her grow not only as a dancer but as a person.
“All of a sudden I had to shape this whole new identity,” Hill said. “I didn’t know how to be a person anymore so I had to find other things that I was passionate about, other things that I was interested in hat I hadn’t really had the time to pursue.”
While Hill knows she has a long road ahead of her, she is grateful for the time she had to grow.
“Growth isn’t linear and progress isn’t linear and it’s not about getting back to the way I used to dance, but learning how to dance in a new body and learning how to navigate the place I’m at today,” Hill said. “Trying not to compare myself so much to others and not trying to compare myself to 16 year old me because I do not have the body I had when I was 16, I just don’t and that’s okay. “
Still actively choosing dance, Hill works to follow her passion no matter the obstacles.
“For me it wasn’t really a choice. I was always dancing and it’s something I have to do,” Hill said.