Dr. Phillips High School senior Ellexis Hatch is one of only 12 female dancers worldwide to be accepted into Juilliard’s incoming freshman class.
| 1:33 p.m. May 17, 2018
Although Dr. Phillips High senior Ellexis Hatch has an excellent pedigree in dance, it’s her passion for and hard work at the art form that got her accepted into The Juilliard School.
The 18-year-old’s commitment to dance over the years paid off in March, when she became one of only 12 female dancers worldwide to be accepted into Juilliard’s incoming freshman class. She also was only one of 24 in the entire class, which includes 12 male dancers.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Ellexis has been dancing for as long as she can remember, since she was about 3 years old. Her interest was piqued as she watched her mother, Gina Hatch, rehearse and perform as a professional dancer herself.
“I’d always tag along and watch her perform and rehearse, and then I started taking classes, probably starting with ballet, jazz and tap,” Ellexis said. “Eventually when I got older, I moved into other styles like modern, hip-hop and basically everything. I just loved it. I just love moving and still do.”
Gina’s side of the family is peppered with a passion for dance, starting with her late mother, who began dancing with Willam F. Christensen, one of the founders of ballet.
“He was the first director to ever do ‘Nutcracker’ in the U.S., and she got to be in that very first production,” Gina said of her mother. “My mom with that affiliation went to New York and danced with George Balanchine and the Ballet Society. … Then she went and saw the Rockettes and was like, ‘Wow, I want to do the Rockettes,’ even though she was dancing with George Balanchine.”
As Gina watched her mother dance and heard her stories of being part of the Rockettes, she worked hard at dance herself and performed many prestigious roles in the world of ballet. Gina was a Rockette herself for four full seasons and also got to perform in Ballet West with Christensen in “The Nutcracker” growing up.
“That was a lot of our history, and my mom did choreography for movies, too,” Gina said. “It was just a part of our lives. It was a lifestyle, and him (husband Greg Hatch) coming in got to meet some of those people. He has a great music background; his father actually performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He’s always been very supportive of us.”
Today, Gina continues to dance and is also an instructor at Movement Arts Studio, where Ellexis trains. Additionally, Gina’s nephews — Ellexis’ cousins — are all dancers and have danced with Ellexis. Gina’s sister took over their mother’s dance company, and Ellexis’ brothers dance, too.
“It’s neat to get to watch her every day,” Gina said. “As a mom, it’s fantastic, but I’m also a big part of her training and getting to choreograph for her. Her cousins are all dancers, and she’s gotten to dance with them. It’s a family affair.”
PASSION PAYS OFF
Ellexis has been dancing as part of Dr. Phillips High’s dance magnet program and also takes classes at Movement Arts Studio and with the Central Florida Ballet.
“It’s not unusual to see her come home most weeknights at 10 p.m.,” said Greg Hatch, her dad. “Her day starts with 7:15 a.m. at school, and she has academics mixed in with her dance curriculum. But after that, she’s either going to Central Florida Ballet or Movement Arts Studio or staying late for rehearsals at the school.
“There’s been nights that she’s come home at 10:30 at night after dancing all day and has to get homework done ’til midnight, but she’s always been very driven,” Greg said. “She has over a 4.0 weighted GPA, so in addition to excelling in the studio and on stage, she’s also got it done in the classroom.”
Ellexis first began seriously considering Juilliard her freshman year, when someone who graduated from DPHS’ dance magnet program and attended Juilliard came to visit and talk about his experience.
“Through research, I found that (Juilliard is) just very creative and they let you experiment in a safe space,” she said. “I wanted to be in a learning environment so I think that’s what drew me to Juilliard, because they’re very experimental.”
She participated in the rigorous audition process Feb. 3. The process includes a ballet class, a modern portion, a two-minute solo, repertory and finally an interview. Altogether it took about six hours.
And on March 20, Ellexis got the call: She was one of 12 female dancers chosen as part of Juilliard’s incoming freshman class.
“I was not expecting to get into Juilliard,” Ellexis said. “I feel like I’m still in shock, and sometimes I kind of forget, and then people will come up and ask me, ‘Wait, aren’t you the girl that got into Juilliard?’ Then I remember and sometimes I start crying again, because it’s just insane when you think about it. I’m so excited, not just to have accomplished this but I’m also excited for this journey I’m going to experience for the next four years.”
At Juilliard, she will study ballet and modern dance styles and also learn about dance history and music. In the end, she will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.
“Tears will come, because I’m excited for her,” Gina said. “It’s just the best thing. To share that (passion) with her (is incredible) and when she said, ‘I’m going to go for Juilliard,’ I thought, she could probably do it. There’s only 12 girls worldwide that get it, and then when they called we were all crying tears of joy. … She’s a big inspiration to a lot of people, including myself.”
“Juilliard carries the name, and it carries the network,” Greg said. “My hope is that she’ll continue to pursue and progress in her art and create networks and friendships that will last a lifetime. There’s a name and a certain prestige that comes with Juilliard, for sure.”
And as proud as her parents are of her hard work paying off, Ellexis is equally as excited to continue chasing her dance dreams.
“To just be in the hub of art in New York City is going to be amazing and eye opening,” she said. “Orlando has a lot of dance, but a lot of it is commercial. New York is a lot of concert-based dance, so I’m excited to see a new world of dance out there.”