Summer student puts best foot forward


By Anne M. Stark

You could say Aaron Hilton has two great loves: a devotion to country and enthusiasm for ballet. Up until a year ago last spring, Hilton was a professional ballet dancer with the Miami City Ballet where he danced with the troupe for three years. When the pandemic hit, that was the end of his professional ballet career.

But at 24, going on his junior year at Princeton University, Hilton isn’t slowing down. He is studying in the school of Public and International Affairs, is a midshipman in the joint Rutgers/Princeton Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit and is working toward a commission in the Navy when he graduates. He is serving as an ROTC intern in the Lab’s Center for Global Security Research this summer.

Hilton’s current career didn’t start off that way. He first started dancing in Moscow at 3 years old with his sister (his parents were both in the Foreign Service). “We moved around a bit,” he said. “It was easier for my parents, who were both working, to put my older sister and me in the same activities.”

At 16, the family moved to Washington, D.C. Hilton applied to a dance academy in New York City to get more intense training. After graduation, he took a gap year before college to dance with the Boston Ballet.

“I did my freshman year and thought after Boston I was done with ballet,” Hilton said. “Then at the end of freshman year, I took an audition in New York and it was the first time this company had done an in-person audition in a long time. I got a job in Miami. I was able to take multiple years of absence from school and danced for 3 years until spring of 2020.”

As the pandemic struck, Hilton went back to hitting the books and participating in ROTC activities. “Unfortunately, I think the ballet chapter has closed. The longer I delay my academic pursuits, the longer the process would be to start down a new career path.”

Because his parents served in the Foreign Service, Hilton has a love for country and feels a career in the Navy can help him achieve his goals. But dance will always be a part of him.

“The discipline and time management skills I learned through my ballet training have helped me in other aspects of my life from academic studies to collegiate athletic pursuits,” he said. “As a dancer, I learned how important it is to take care of yourself to be able to perform your best day in and day out.“