HANNAH BATEMAN, Ex Principal Soloist of Northern Ballet, and Owner of The Ballet Retreat
Hannah Bateman was a professional ballet dancer for 19 years. After training at Central School of Ballet, Hannah spent a year at The Israel Ballet, then joined Northern Ballet in 2002. Her first role as a Principal was David Nixon's Dangerous Liaisons. She performed in Gloria at the Royal Opera House in Northern Ballet's premier main stage appearance there. Hannah has performed some incredible roles including Jane, in Cathy Marston's Jane Eyre, and leading roles in Romeo and Juliet, Ondine and Cleopatra. She was part of the creating cast for all of Kenneth Tindall's work including the critically acclaimed ballet Casanova. Hannah founded The Ballet Retreat in 2016, a strong community for adult learners and those returning to ballet. After becoming a mum, Hannah returned to the stage for one final season, which was cut short by the pandemic.
A new career in sustainable dancewear
I am the newest team member of Imperfect Pointes and I am feeling pretty chuffed to be sitting here writing an intro blog for a company that I not only believe in but have fallen in love with!
As a former Principal Soloist with Northern Ballet I am able to give a unique insight into the day to day needs of a dancer and everything that a professional career in ballet throws at you! I was very fortunate during my career, I got to dance on many stages all over the world in classic roles like Juliet in R&J and Belle in Beauty and the Beast. I got to create roles with brilliant choreographers as well as work with many artists, musicians and creatives from all four corners of the globe. If you were to draw up a tick list of things to achieve as a professional dancer, I pretty much ticked off the to-do list and now I am retired from the stage and I’ve had time for some reflection, I realise how lucky and blessed my Ballet career was. A dancer's professional career is short, so we know that we will have to think of life after dance, but it hits quite hard when it happens. It is usual to mourn the temporary loss of identity. I chose to leave at a time when I felt artistically fulfilled and my body still felt in good health. It also coincided with me becoming a mother. Quite unexpectedly, my first performance back after maternity leave was in fact my last performance. The pandemic struck and we went into lockdown a week later. So what does a ballet dancer do when you transition from one career in dance and need to find the next challenge?
Hannah Bateman on stage in her one performance as the Geisha Mother in Geisha. Credit Emma Kuldhar
I was a professional ballet dancer for nearly 20 years and ballet excites me as much today as it did 37 years ago, when I first slipped on a leotard and entered a studio! That leotard left a lot to be desired when it comes to design, fit and sustainability (not a thing in the 80’s!) but I enjoyed the sense of occasion it gave me, and it became part of my identity. It was itchy, baggy and plastic pink but I loved it and everything it represented.
Budding Prima Hannah in her first leotard
I enjoyed glorious highs throughout my ballet career and plenty of challenges along the way. I can recall exactly what I was wearing in nearly all of these moments: be that costumes or rehearsal attire. What dancewear I chose for the studio was extremely important to me, it prepared me for the rehearsal ahead, got me in performance mode and definitely impacted my confidence. I vividly recall saving up my pennies to purchase the one leotard I could afford for audition season: it had to be just right, the fit, the leotard design, the colour and have a subtle ‘x factor’.
There was no online shopping back then, you visited the limited number of ballet shops that were available, and what was on offer was mostly poor quality leotards and dance tights and stereotypically puff pink ballet tutus, nothing remarkable or distinctive.
The retail landscape has shifted massively in the last 20 years and the volume of choice in dance wear is overwhelming. Dancers can choose whatever suits our mood, in multiple styles and an array of colours but I was a creature of comfort and I always came back to the ballet wear brands that I knew fitted my body the best. Those brands are now huge multi million pound businesses, a far cry from their start-up business days of 15 years ago.
So I have to ask why the dancewear brands haven’t all shifted to sustainable fabrics and fair production lines?
It will be obvious by now that I am an advocate of sustainable products! This is what first drew me to Imperfect Pointes; here is a brand offering British designed and manufactured dancewear with less impact on the environment. It is stylish and comfortable and wants to have conversations about how the dancewear industry can support EVERYONE who loves ballet!
Hannah showing the world how to wear a stripy unitard
Fate stepped in and I was introduced to Helen through a friend, we got on instantly and I’ve been talking and consulting on Imperfect Pointes ever since. I am so thrilled to now be an official part of the Imperfect Pointes crowd and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I will be working closely with Helen, as we look to develop and expand certain areas of the collections, such as more ballet collaborations, new leotard designs and introducing sustainable ballet tights made from recycled nylon. I’ve got some exciting plans brewing in my ballet cauldron!
Hannah Bateman as Ondine. Northern Ballet. photo Martin Bell
I am again feeling very grateful that I am once more, part of a company that has a mission to support its community in a stylish and sustainable way, with a good dose of humour and fun (owner Helen is all the right levels of eccentric).
I was unsure what I’d do for a career when I finally left the stage. Now, I have the continued development of my brand The Ballet Retreat which complements my new role within Imperfect Pointes. I started The Ballet Retreat 6 years ago with the ambition to offer high quality, intensive ballet retreats for adult dancers. I wanted to offer recreational dancers the opportunity to experience life as a professional dancer and immerse themselves in ballet for a couple of days, rather than the usual 1 hour a week.
This has given me great insight into what adult dancers want from their dancewear and this, combined with my own professional experience of dance wear will play a huge part in how we intend to develop the style and fit of future collections. I feel positive about the future and I can’t wait to grow Imperfect Pointes into an industry leading ballet brand. I successfully climbed the ranks of a renowned ballet company against the odds and I will be taking that focus and determination and sprinkling it all over Imperfect Pointes beautiful dance wear and so we become the brand that dancers connect with when they want to look great and do good!
Much love Hannah x