Approximately 11 hours before the performance, the doctor looked at me and said,

“This is the end of your dance career. I don’t know how you are walking around with that amount of damage to your hip.”

I don’t know what I was expecting, quite honestly. Dr. B showed me the X-ray of my hip, riddled with big dark splotches on the head of the femur and in the socket. I knew in my gut that this wasn’t good. Our morning company ballet class was supposed to start in 30 minutes, and I had planned this early morning Dr. appointment so that I would be back in time to take it. 10 am ballet class is a ritual, almost a religion of any professional dancer. Not taking class, especially on a show day, is not acceptable, recommended, or professional. But, Dr. B told me that I needed an MRI from another clinic and to come back to him directly afterward to talk over the results. I had already bit off all my fingernails from nerves, and now I would have to call our rehearsal director to let him know that I wouldn’t be in for class and morning rehearsal. It was pure stress. 

Avoidance of the doctor is a deeply ingrained American fear of extra financial costs. For years in the USA, I never could afford health insurance, so when I did turn up to the doctor, it always ended up being costly. Thankfully I was dancing in Germany now and had comprehensive insurance. Christian had insisted that I see a Dr. sooner, but it was hard to find an appointment because of our intense rehearsal schedule. My only option was the earliest 8 am appointment on a premier day. 

Six hours before the premier.

Sitting back in Dr. B’s office, I evaluated all my options. I hadn’t seen the MRI yet, but the X-ray was clear why I had been in so much pain. 

I had already missed the morning ballet class and rehearsal, which was annoying for a person who likes structure. I could warm up on my own but hated the feeling of letting my co-workers down. Your presence in the ballet studio is expected before a show. It’s a time to go through any tricky choreography and repeat any last-minute corrections. The morning ballet class and rehearsal are not usually strenuous, but instead a time to get a feeling for your body and work out some of the nerves. 


For months my right leg would unexpectedly give out on me. My right glute muscles always felt like there was a dull cramp, my hip flexors felt tight, like hip tendonitis. And then, of course, there was the unexpecting shooting knife pain if I stepped slightly in the wrong direction. The physical therapists treated me for all my complaints, but the pain intensified with time and the rehearsal workload. I was self-medicating with copious amounts of ibuprofen, and it wasn’t making a dent in the pain.

Five hours before the premier.

Dr. B. enters the room.

Dr. B. – “I’m writing you a ‘Krankenschein’ (medical certificate) for the next six weeks so we can evaluate what to do. That means no dancing and walking, only with crutches. It doesn’t look like necrosis, but I’m going to send you to another specialist. You have hip dysplasia, torn labrum, substantial damage to the cartilage, and cysts because of the friction between the bones.” 

My jaw must have dropped in disbelief.

Hannah – “I have about 5 hours before the show. They don’t have time to change casts. I need to do this performance tonight. I’ve been dancing through this pain up until today. One more day is not going to change anything.”


We agreed that the following day would start a 6-week break of walking only with the help of crutches. I left his office with the numbers of a couple of other orthopedic specialists, a prescription for stronger pain medication, and my new crutches.

I went directly back to our apartment and hid the crutches in the closet so that Christian wouldn’t see them before the performance.


Photography: Jesus Vallinas Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti Dancers: Hannah Teutscher, Malcolm Sutherland, Max Levy


3 hours before the show

I didn’t tell anyone my diagnosis that afternoon, not even Christian. He also had a premier and needed to keep his focus on himself. My other dance partners, Malcolm and Felix, didn’t need to know either. We rehearsed with my hip pain for weeks, so we already knew how to dance together and where I needed extra assistance. Besides, they also did not need the additional stress before the show. Perhaps the decision to keep everything to myself was altruistic, or maybe it was denial. Honestly, I’m not quite sure in retrospect anymore. 


Staatstheater Nürnberg Ballet enjoys lots of accolades and success. Our audience is almost always 100% full. It is a thrill to perform in front of a thousand people fulfilling your childhood dream. Dancing is the closest to “enlightenment,” as you can get. You are entirely present in your body and have control of every minute detail in each muscle. You listen to the orchestra and hear how each instrument and person fit together to make a tapestry of sound. You are aware of every person in your cast and almost feel the subtle shifts of energy on your skin where they are on stage. This “energy” becomes a dialogue between the artists and the public. The audience has a collective feeling and energy that feeds back into the performance. Each person is essential for the magic of the “now” of live theater. 

Photography: Jesus Vallinas Choreography: Crystal Pite Dancer: Hannah Teutscher


8 pm Show Time

In Crystal Pite’s piece, Short Works: 24, the audience is invited into 24 individual universes that are ephemeral, touching, and deep. 

Mauro Bigonzettis choreography, Cantata, is passionate, visceral and wild. The women are instinctual, strong, and seductive. 

I truly loved dancing both pieces.

I went into the performance, knowing that it would probably be my last ever. I wasn’t sad; the reality hadn’t sunk in yet. Instead, it was thrilling to be performing. When it’s a premiere, you have more excitement, which requires more concentration and discipline to control your nerves. The pain was manageable with the cocktail of medication and adrenaline. The performance that night wasn’t mistake-free, but I don’t think that’s always the point. Being open to the experience of “something greater” is the beauty of live performance. There are glimpses of these moments seared into my memory. What it feels like to partner and feel like you are flying. To have absolute complete trust that your partner will be there to catch you as you jump blindly backward. To share these moments on stage with colleagues and friends (and my now-husband, Christian) is a gift for which I will be forever grateful. 

After the performance, I gave my “Krankenschein” to the ballet administration for a 6-week break (which would turn into a year.) I told my dance partners I would be out for a bit (they had another fantastic dancer, Julia, who would take my place.) And Christian and I started an epic adventure of hip surgery, ending a career, starting a marriage, and creating a business in a very short time.  

I feel grateful for every moment, even the hard ones.



Photography: Suzana Stirling Dancers, Hannah Teutscher and Christian Teutscher


(Header credit: Jesus Vallinas, choreography Crystal Pite, dancers Sayaka Kado, Hannah Teutscher)