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  • Writer's pictureHannah Box

Years in the Making: Cafe Stories at Huntsville Ballet Company

Much to the exasperation of my family, I have viewed the world through the lens of dance and choreography since I was a toddler. Like many young dancers, I grew up constantly putting on elaborate performances in our living room, and every song was a potential dream solo, pas de deux, or ensemble. I must have spent hours detailing the intricate movements that played out in my head (which would always be aided by my synesthesia, which I have written about before: ) to my mother, who frankly - never asked to know about my internal choreographic process. By the age of 12, my incredibly cool mom had made sure I was fully versed in 90’s grunge music, and every time I would start describing a solo to a Pearl Jam song, or a group piece to Nirvana, she would cut me off and say “well, it just needs to go in your coffee shop ballet.” In typical Hannah Box fashion, I took that literally. Now, 12 years later, I am premiering my first work with a professional company: Cafe Stories - soundtracked by some of those same songs that fed my adolescent angst and budding choreographic spirit.

Hannah in Huntsville: age 14. Photo by David Phillips.

Cafe Stories was created during a two-week residency with Huntsville Ballet Company in Huntsville, Alabama. I grew up in Huntsville - though young Hannah would very passionately disagree, as I felt way more connected to my Canadian birthplace and citizenship than anything remotely southern at the time - and it feels like home every time I return for a visit. There is something magical about the quiet mountains, the southern rocket scientist culture, and the surrogate family that I have there. I couldn’t think of a better place to return to to create the piece of my adolescent dreams.

In rehearsal with Huntsville Ballet Company. Photo by Jim Kendall.

Gretta Wright in rehearsal. Photo by Jim Kendall.

The half-act work features music from Alanis Morisette, Fatboy Slim, Nirvana, No Doubt, Pearl Jam, and the Violent Femmes. Each song helps tell a small vignette of the goings-on at an imagined coffee shop in the 90’s during an open mic night. It was so much fun to witness the dancers slip into their own unique parts within this cast of wacky characters, and I cannot wait to see what they have done with the piece in my absence. One of the most exciting elements for me is the partnership with Honest Coffee, a fabulous Huntsville coffee shop. They are supplying a great deal of our sets and staging materials, which will surely bring the piece to life on stage. I was deeply touched and inspired by their generosity.

With the fabulous yellow tables that will adorn the stage at Honest Coffee!

This time next month, I’ll be back in Huntsville, preparing the dancers for their opening night of Huntsville Ballet’s Unplugged (in which this piece will be a part of) on October 21st. For more information and tickets, please visit

To say I am excited is an understatement. I’d like to say that I am making my 12-year-old self proud, but she would probably just tell me that she told me so… I mean, of course you can do a ballet to grunge music.

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