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A ROYAL OPPORTUNITY

A 16-year-old Tampa Prep student is heading to London to study at the Royal Ballet School on a full scholarship.

Turn eighteen, graduate, leave home - that is the usual order students follow when leaving the nest. But Hannah Beach, a sophomore at Tampa Preparatory, is bending the rules.

She leaves home for England this fall to attend the Royal Ballet School in London. Dance has been her life since she first put on her leather-soled ballet shoes at the age of six, moving onto pointe at 10. Now at the ripe age of 16, she takes up to 20 dance classes a week at the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, along with four academic classes at Tampa Prep. (Hannah was featured in tb-two* in December; you can see the story at http://bit.ly/e6EAjH.)

Hannah started on the road to the Royal Ballet School when she won the overall grand prix honor at the Youth America Grand Prix ballet competition in October, which sent her to the finals in New York. There, a representative from the Royal Ballet School noticed her and made an invitation and full scholarship offer.

Leaving home is a huge step, but leaving home for another country and culture is even bigger. "I was also thinking about going to a dance school in New York since it is somewhat closer to home." But how could she pass up the Royal Ballet?

It will be like college, staying in a dorm with other dancers. But the bulk of her time will be spent on the dance floor in classes from Monday through Saturday, in 12-week sessions with monthlong breaks during the year-round school. "My legs are going to be aching with all of these classes," she said. "Aspirin will be my best friend."

While she is in England, she will keep up with high school classes through the Florida Virtual School, and after the Royal Ballet School she hopes her next steps will be with a dance company.

Before she leaves for England in September, Hannah still has a lot of dancing to do. You can see her Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 6:30 p.m in A Midsummer Night's Dream as the lead, Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in the Patel Conservatory production at Ferguson Hall in the Straz Center. Tickets are $17.50-$20.

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