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Forest Hill dancer killed in crash had 'passion and perseverance'

Highway and Road DisastersTransportation DisastersEthics

The Harford County hip-hop dance and cheerleading communities are among those mourning a young Forest Hill woman who was killed in a three-car accident Tuesday afternoon in Joppa.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Mackensie Kriss, of the 100 block of Theodora Court, had spent most of her life in the world of competitive hip-hop dance and cheerleading, according to friends and acquaintances.

Maryland State Police say Ms. Kriss, who had just graduated from The John Carroll School in June and had begun coaching a children's dance team, was killed on Route 152 near Old Joppa Road after her car crossed the center line, hitting two other vehicles.

One of the other cars caught fire, but its two passengers were able to escape. One of the other drivers was flown to shock trauma with non-life-threatening injuries. Ms. Kriss was pronounced dead at the scene.

The accident Tuesday is less than a mile from where two people were killed in a head-on collision involving three vehicles on May 8.

The reaction to Ms. Kriss' passing was immediate from Vipers All-Star Cheer and Dance, the Joppa-based group where Ms. Kriss had been active as a dancer, choreographer and teacher for most of her life.

She had been to hip-hop dance and cheerleading competitions in 11 different states, including the Cheerleading Worlds competition in Orlando, Fla., Vipers owner Tom Judy said.

In a message on the Vipers' website, Judy wrote: "Hannah was such a performer! She made dance look like it was easy, when we all know how hard it truly was. She captivated you and made you never want to look away. The amount of passion and perseverance that she portrayed was something that we all shoot for in life. Even when she was hurt, she never gave up on her team."

"Hannah loved hip-hop," Judy also said via e-mail to The Aegis. "She had the great ability to isolate muscle groups, dance with a strong range of motion and express incredible confidence on stage. Hannah was frequently found in the front of her cheer and dance teams, without anyone to follow, executing all movements with precision, while entertaining and engaging crowds of thousands. She did so with complete comfort and a great smile."

Beto Sanchez, a former Vipers owner who also became Kriss' brother-in-law, said Ms. Kriss had a great work ethic and was always doing dance.

"She was just a non-stopper. Her work ethic was incredibly strong," Sanchez said, adding she was also a very skilled dancer.

"She was just always really good in terms of memorizing routines," he said. "She was like a Xerox copy."

Ms. Kriss was regularly in front of crowds with thousands of people and never seemed to lose her cool, her brother-in-law said.

"She never doubted herself and she performed excellently," he said.

He also said the outpouring from dance and other sports teams around the country has "been ridiculous" and owners from "all kinds of companies" have been sending their condolences.

At the time of her death, Ms. Kriss had been working at the new Forest Hill Chick-fil-A, which opened just a month ago.

The restaurant posted a message on its Facebook page reading: "It's a very sad day for us at Chick-fil-A. We lost one of our team members in a car accident this afternoon. Please pray for her family."

As of Thursday, 159 people had commented on the post to send their prayers and express their sympathy.

A Chick-fil-A employee said the Kriss family asked the restaurant not to talk about Ms. Kriss' death, sending all comments through Sanchez.

Sanchez said Ms. Kriss' family's faith was also important, as they were involved at St. Margaret Catholic Church in Bel Air, and that Ms. Kriss constantly strove to help others. She also had just started coaching his 3-year-old daughter, among other children.

"She always wanted to make sure [with] everyone else around her, that she could help them learn something," he said. "She always put herself last."

Madelyn Ball, principal at The John Carroll School, also recalled Ms. Kriss fondly.

"She was a wonderful young lady and she had plans for the future, and she is just going to be terribly missed here," Ball said, calling the school community "devastated" by the news of her death.

Ball noted: "It's at this time that we are so glad that we are a faith-based community so that we can come together to celebrate her life," as well as her "being right now with our Lord."

Ms. Kriss continued doing dance and cheer through her middle-school years at Saint Margaret School in Bel Air and her high-school years at John Carroll, which has a cheerleading team, Judy said.

After turning 18 in July, Kriss was scheduled to begin coaching a dance team for 3-year-old to 6-year-old children next month, Judy said, explaining she was "looking to give back full circle to what she experienced when she first joined the Viper program."

"Hannah will be remembered for her incredibly strong work ethic, her ability to memorize an entire dance routine in minutes, her lack of fear to perform anywhere, her courage to perform in front of massive crowds, but most importantly Hannah will be remembered - for her smile," Judy wrote.

A Mass in her memory will take place this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Margaret Church, 141 N. Hickory Ave., in Bel Air, with a reception to follow at the Callahan Center at St. Margaret Middle School, 1716 Churchville Road in Bel Air.

Judy said the family is also in the process of setting up a foundation in to honor Ms. Kriss' memory that will benefit local teenagers.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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