CULTIVATING CREATIVITY: Hannah Feltham’s journey from Belleville to Beijing

By Abena Beloved Green/Quinte Arts Council

When she’s not dancing for Universal Studios Beijing, Hannah Feltham likes to spend her time visiting tourist attractions with friends, scouting out new brunch spots, cooking and…dancing some more.

“My friends and I found a studio here called Millennium Dance Studio that does lots of jazz and hip-hop classes that we take. I like to choreograph so I teach lots of jazz and contemporary. We created a concept dance video recently to a song called ‘Feel it Still’ by Portugal the Man.”

A natural performer, Feltham has been dancing ballet since the age of three. She credits her very first dance teacher Kathleen Hicks for helping her develop her skill in those formative years. “She trained me from age three to nine years old. She saw something in me that allowed me to be the dancer I am today.” After age nine, Hannah’s family moved from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador to Belleville, Ont., where Hannah attended Quinte Ballet School of Canada (QBSC).

After graduating from QBSC at the age of 18, Feltham attended the Alberta School of Ballet and then moved to New York City. There, she trained at the Ailey School, a modern dance school, for three years. Feltham describes the challenge of facing multiple auditions and disappointments that come with the territory: “A lot of my graduating class – we all were sent out into the world to audition. For lots of people if you get cut, it can make or break you. You feel a blow to the ego. There were so many moments where I was sad about not getting my dream job, but it’s a matter of picking yourself back up, putting your makeup on and going to the next audition.” Feltham’s efforts finally paid off when she landed a major gig at Universal Studios Japan. She left New York for this new opportunity and worked as a dancer for two consecutive contracts. After two years abroad, Hannah decided to visit her family back in Canada.

This is when plans changed.

Hannah returned to Canada in March 2020 – just when borders closed worldwide due to COVID- 19. As a result, Feltham had to remain in Canada for the entire year even though she had only meant to visit. With no opportunities for performing on the horizon, Feltham had to figure out what to do with her time. Wanting to remain productive and in shape for dance, she began taking online classes taught in New York from her living room in Belleville.

Years prior, Feltham had found time to train as a yoga and Pilates instructor and during COVID lockdowns, she created a business called Feltham Vibes where she taught classes online. She found other jobs as well: as a yoga instructor for Mindful Movements in Belleville and as a server at a local restaurant. While unable to dance professionally in 2020, Hannah was grateful for access to studio space at QBSC to rehearse and attend online auditions for jobs.

Today, Hannah is working again as a dancer at Universal Studios Beijing. “I’ve never opened a theme park ever. It’s a big deal. It’s the biggest theme park in the world,” she says with a bright energy in her voice. Her family, while mostly in the medical field, has been a great supporter of her career.

Feltham is also studying online marketing. She explains, “As a dancer you are your own business. You have to be your own agent. Even though I have the technique, skills and experiences, it may not be enough. You are constantly fighting for your job and having to prove yourself.” Thankfully she is exhilarated by the challenge and by the experiences she knows are on the other side.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Umbrella magazine, out now.