Lisa Hunt, a Hochstein alum, began her early ballet training with Orcutt-Botsford School of Dance and the Timothy Draper School of Dance/Rochester City Ballet, where she was featured in many soloist roles.
At the age of 15, Lisa was one of two students to be accepted (on scholarship) into the sophomore class at the National Ballet of Canada (L'Ecole Nationale de Ballet) in Toronto, where she trained in the Vaganova and Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) techniques. During her time at the school, she had the privilege of being hand-picked by various choreographers to perform solos and pas de deux in new pieces for the annual showcase.
Upon graduation, Lisa was offered a contract to dance professionally with Ballet Arizona under the artistic direction of the world-renowned Ib Andersen. During her four seasons with Ballet Arizona, she was featured in many ballets, including Swan Lake, Les Sylphides, Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia, Nutcracker, Symphony in C, Romeo and Juliet, Serenade, Company B and world premieres by Ib Andersen.
Lisa currently works in Development at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance and enjoys being back in Rochester's vibrant Arts community, surrounded by those who share her passion for music and dance.
We asked her to share some of her memories and experiences with us:
AR: What and with whom did you study at Hochstein, and for how long? How did you begin to study here?
LH: My first Hochstein experience was an audition for the Nutrcracker with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in the Performance Hall, where I was selected for the part of a Polichinelle. As Nutcracker rehearsals were held at Hochstein, this prompted me to take some ballet lessons from Diane Lewis as well to improve my technique. I took classes in the summer starting at age 8, and sporadically until the age of 11. Training with Diane Lewis was my first introduction to the Vaganova style, and to real classical ballet training (I came from a very small school).
AR: What are you doing today?
LH: I am the current Assistant Director of Development at Hochstein School of Music and Dance.
AR: How did you get into the field of development? When did you transition from ballet to this?
LH: It really felt like a natural transition. When I left ballet, there was definitely a bit of a search to find a new niche. I worked in various sectors, one of them being private wealth management. While at the wealth management firm, I had an opportunity to assist the Philanthropic Advisory Services division and I found it to be very rewarding to help facilitate funding for different non-profits and charities. When I moved back to Rochester from Boston, I was doing a lot of volunteer work and a few people suggested I might enjoy pursuing development and fundraising professionally. The fact that I ended up at a school for music and dance feels like an act of providence.
AR: When and how did you first become interested in dance?
LH: Ever since I can remember, really. It probably started when my mom took me to see the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater perform the Nutcracker at Eastman. I was 4 at the time and loved it. When I joined a young dance class, I remember wanting it to be more serious than it was, even then.
AR: Can you share one or two of your favorite memories from your time at Hochstein?
LH: Definitely my first Nutcracker audition and rehearsals here, but also learning how to properly sew and tie my pointe shoes. The facility at Hochstein is just gorgeous! One of the most (if not THE most) beautiful dance studios in Rochester.
AR: What do you take away from your Hochstein education? How has it impacted your life/career currently?
LH: Diane taught me with a very firm but patient teaching style. She also taught me to approach the ballet studio with the utmost reverence, with respect for the teacher, for myself and for my fellow students. That laid the groundwork for having an appreciation of the incredible amount of persistence, focus and patience required to pursue my passion. I really feel like I’ve come full cycle – training in Rochester, dancing professionally and then returning to Rochester to work for the very school where it all began.
The skills and disciplines you learn in ballet really prepare you for anything you want to pursue in life – whether it is working at a corporate job, in the Arts, in the nonprofit sector or becoming a doctor, lawyer or CEO – you can truly parlay the skills you learn from ballet into anything you set your mind to.
AR: Do you have a favorite performing experience?
LH: When I was younger (about 14), I had an opportunity to perform the part of the Glove Seller in Timothy Draper’s rendition of Gaîté Parisienne with Rochester City Ballet. It was a technically demanding, but a VERY comical role and I loved making the audience laugh! My favorite classical ballet to perform is Swan Lake, hands down, which I performed with Ballet Arizona. Tchaikovsky’s score is just so hauntingly beautiful! However, I think my favorite performing experience of all time was Dancing Under the Stars (a performance outdoors) in Phoenix. We performed Serenade on a beautiful night—there was a canopy of stars overhead, a full moon and a perfect breeze. It felt magical.