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December 2016: Senior Hannah Thomas dances her way to self-discovery

Transferring to Georgia College helped Hannah Thomas rediscover her passion for dancing. Along the way, she also uncovered hidden talents for leadership, teaching, choreography and using 

Senior liberal arts studies major Hannah Thomas

performance for social change.

“When I got here, I was still figuring out what I wanted to do,” said Thomas, who transferred as a senior in 2014. This unlocked doors, revealing possibilities she never expected: like becoming president of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, and captain of the Sassy Cats Dance Team, which won a Peach Belt championship last spring under Thomas’ co-leadership.

“When I drew nutrients from all these things, I was really able to grow,” Thomas said. “I was like a bud without sunlight or water. But I grew up a lot and started making decisions for myself, and it really set my trail ablaze.”

Thomas started taking ballet, jazz, tap and modern dance at age 3. Growing up in Lithonia, she attended performing arts schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. Accustomed to the lights and exhilaration, Thomas said she’ll always need the stage.

At Georgia College, Thomas switched majors from accounting to liberal arts studies. This allowed her to design her own path, coupling math and business know-how with a dance minor.

Graduating in December, she plans to get a master’s in choreography. From there, Thomas wants to choreograph for theatre, teach and someday head a college department - bringing her love for jazz hip-hop to a new generation.

Without her mentors at Georgia College, Thomas doesn’t think she would’ve dreamed so big. Every encouragement led Thomas to believe in herself. She learned movement could be used to impact social change from professor Natalie King, who works with Amelia Pelton, director of dance.

“It’s literally been such a blessing,” Thomas said. “She has been the advocate for my success. I’m forever grateful to her for seeing something in me. She saw I just needed a little push, a little more molding.”

Thomas’ senior capstone project encouraged empathy for victims of racial injustice through film and dance, King said, adding “I cannot think of a more appropriate subject matter for a contemporary artist at this time in our nation.”

“Hannah Thomas is distinguished by a wealth of intellect and talent at her disposal, resulting in an abundance of professional possibilities,” King said. “She displays a voracious intent to engage in study beyond the classroom.”

Thomas used her research to choreograph a film for GC’s Spring 2016 Dance Concert, entitled “The Cramp We Feel.” Another film entry, “Strange Realities,” was choreographed to Nina Simone’s rendition of “Strange Fruit.” It won Thomas two campus awards and global recognition at last spring’s Symposium on African Diaspora and the Arts and Social Change.

“Strange Realities” brought Thomas to the attention of Dr. Karen Berman, artistic director and chair of theatre and dance. Berman asked Thomas to choreograph a theatre production this fall of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“To me, the highlight of the show was the choreography,” Berman said. “Hannah was able to provide in dance the subtext and backstory of the show, framing the theme of violence against women. Her dances were powerful and inspired. She has a maturity beyond her years, and the cast truly respected her.”

In February, Thomas will dance to “an awesome warrior theme” with Sassy Cats at the Universal Dance Association competition in Orlando, Florida. She’s also been hired to choreograph the team’s performance at the Peach Belt Competition in May. 

Hannah Thomas

Her advice to students: Don’t be afraid to change majors and do something that invigorates your entire existence. 

“Make opportunity for yourself. Don’t feel pressured to stay in a major that doesn’t bring you joy,” Thomas said. “At any college, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. You just have to nurture the grass around you, so you can see the bloom.”

Hannah Thomas practicing her dance.

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