At Scholarship Night 2015: Susan Clarke, Branch Manager at RBC Broadway and Cambie; dance students Caitlynn Danchuk, Haley Heckethorn, Ria Girard; Artemis Gordon, Artistic Director of Dance; Carmen Stossel, Regional Community Marketing Manager, Brand & Communications, RBC

The world of dance is a big place for young dancers starting their careers. After years of 10-plus-hour days, dancers have the new challenge of pursuing job prospects that span the globe. That’s why Arts Umbrella grants the RBC Award for Career Professional Development to five young dancers each year.

“It’s an opportunity to put ourselves out there,” says recent VCC and Arts Umbrella Dance Diploma graduate Noa Salamon, who has studied dance at Arts Umbrella for 10 years.

Attending auditions and workshops allows dancers to demonstrate their skills, gain employment, and experience the audition process – all of which help graduates build successful and rewarding careers. Which is what the RBC awards aim to achieve.

The RBC Foundation, through the Emerging Artists Project, donates $50,000 to support Arts Umbrella’s Professional Program in Dance – with $5,000 granted directly to young artists like Noa to help them pursue  career opportunities.

The question is “how do we get ourselves started,” says Noa, explaining that her RBC award will help her gain exposure by “being around a company.” She heads to Montreal soon for a workshop with Compagnie Marie Chouinard, and her excitement is palpable. “I fell in love with Marie Chouinard’s work. Every show is completely different but within guidelines.”

Fellow award recipient and VCC-Diploma graduate Haley Heckethorn is also exploring career opportunities. Originally from Las Vegas, Haley has choreographed in her home city this summer, attended a workshop in California, and is now travelling to Europe where she will attend classes and auditions.

The RBC awards have been essential for both young dancers as they access these global opportunities.

“It helps make an art form we’ve worked on for 18 years possible,” says Haley. “My family has sacrificed so much for me to take on this hard career.” The RBC award shows that “other people also believe in me.”

Both Haley and Noa talk highly of the work ethic instilled in the Arts Umbrella Dance Program and the support from the dedicated faculty.

“You are educated,” says Haley, but “they also teach you to be an independent dancer.” She feels program graduates can “go anywhere and know how to work.”

Noa also talks about the work ahead. The Montreal workshop will give her an opportunity to “go farther than I think I can.”

The young dancers are excited for the challenges ahead and speak confidently about their preparation at Arts Umbrella.

“We were trained as open dancers, says Noa. “We worked with so many choreographers, so many different types of people, so many different styles of dance.

“But within, you are given the freedom to find yourself.”