Accomplished dancer remains inspired and focussed on career

 - Sylvain Senez PHOTO
— image credit: Sylvain Senez PHOTO

A DANCER who accomplished more than any other local dancer has continued her growth in the craft since she left here two years ago.

Jessica Ames, 19, who has been dancing at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island in Vancouver since August 2009, says she has learned a lot about herself and dance.

“The experience here is unlike any other pre-professional dance school in the country,” says Ames.

“Everyone here is very humble and focussed on their goals.”

She credits Arts Umbrella artistic director Artemis Gordon with inspiring her to believe in herself.

“She has a way with words that help you view dance in a completely different and thoughtful way,” says Ames, adding Gordon has inspired her by what she says in class and in rehearsal.

“She has also inspired me by creating amazing opportunities that not very many dancers my age get.”

Arts Umbrella always purchases dance house section tickets so the dancers get amazing deals on tickets for dance company shows in Vancouver, says Ames.

Gordon also makes use of all her connections with famous dance world people to come in and teach classes.

Arts Umbrella constantly brings in new world-renowned dance choreographers, says Ames.

“Our grad class does many master classes at the Scotia Bank dance centre downtown with all the Ballet BC dancers,” she says.

James Kudelka, former artistic director of the National Ballet years ago, was working with Ames’ company before the Christmas Break.

“He is a dance genius,” says Ames.

She has also worked with names like Shawn Hounsell, Donna Krasnow, Cherice Barton, Marc Boivin, Gioconda Barbuto, Roberto Campanella, and Rob Kitsos.

“Every single person who teaches us dance has something different to teach,” she says.

Since last summer, when she was accepted into the two-year Graduate Dance Diploma Program that’s run through Vancouver Community College, she has been dancing six days a week.

“Mostly at Arts Umbrella we practice ballet and modern,” she says.

Every day Ames wakes up at 7 a.m., packs her lunch and heads to dance on the Skytrain, she says.

She dances from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday.

On Wednesdays, she and her colleagues continue dancing from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. for their company rehearsal, which also takes place Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Saturdays are her only day off.

“I always go for dinner with my friends at the public market every Wednesday before rehearsal,” says Ames.

“The art culture and view on Granville Island is very relaxing and an extremely nice location to be dancing.”

“You can never stop learning because there are millions of different ways to move the body and millions of different imagery techniques that can inspire you to move differently,” she says.

She’s learned that the better dancers become, the more confidence they lack.

“I think this is true with any kind of art,” says Ames.

“Many artists are shy about their work and never think it is good enough.”

Ames and her dance company will be travelling to Holland in March to dance with professional dance companies there.

It will involve taking classes, collaborating and doing a show, she says.

“My school decided we wanted to go to Europe together as a company,” she says.

“The dance world in the Netherlands is ahead of Canada in the evolution of dance. Dance is more valued and respected in Europe.

“We want to go there to see what is new and just to have the experience of a lifetime.”

Following that, the company will be auditioning at various dance companies.

But Ames will be returning to finish her dance diploma.

“Eventually, yes, I would love to live and be dancing in Europe,” she says.

When she completes her two years at Arts Umbrella, she will receive her dance diploma and be a professional dancer.

“One day I would love to open my own studio or have my own dance company,” she says.

Ames says she is very sad to hear that Sophia’s Dance Studio, where she learned dance, is closing and she sends her love to all the dancers here and to Sophia.

“...and I encourage all those who attended Sophia’s to keep dancing!” she says.

For her trip to the Netherlands, Ames and each of her colleagues has to raise $4,000.

The website for donations is

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