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GBD Alumna Spotlight: Emily Holmes on the Importance of Industry Connections and Versatility

February 22, 2019

GBD Alumna Emily Holmes

“There’s a lot of opportunity here.”

For emerging dance artists, who you know is equally as important as strong training. George Brown Dance students work with leading industry professionals in a variety of training and performance contexts. For GBD alumna Emily Holmes, these industry connections both enriched her dance education and led to diverse professional performance opportunities.

Emily joined the GBD Dance Performance Program in 2014 for its strong ballet focus. Through her GBD training, she cultivated both her professional classical technique and artistic versatility while working with a range of prominent dance artists.

“There’s a lot of opportunity here,” shares Emily. “GBD gives you a chance to work with so many different people.” In her first year, Emily was selected to perform in Company B, a training company founded by choreographer Malgorzata Nowacka in association with GBD. “I came in on Sundays to do ballet class and work on Malgorzata’s choreography,” explains Emily. The company performed contemporary and modern pieces across a range of Toronto venues.

Emily’s industry experience continued in her second year at GBD when she was chosen by CBJ faculty member, Mercedes Bernardez, to perform with the Cuban contemporary company, Danza Corpus, in their production, The Gift. “A lot of GBD students and alumni were in the show,” shares Emily, who was selected as a soloist dancer. Her demonstrated abilities in the GBD studios further landed her a performance role in Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror, after choreographer Anisa Tejpar observed her skills in class.

Pictured left: Emily during her Mentorship at CBJ as a Corps member during the Swan Lake tour.



“Even though in mentorship you’re still a student, you’re really part of the company,”

Emily also gained industry connections by working with alumni and guest artists in GBD’s annual productions, IN HÄUS and Unleashed. “Choreographers outside of George Brown come in. It’s a really helpful way to get seen,” explains Emily. “Derek Sangster (GBD Associate Director), brings in very strong people in the industry. It’s a great opportunity to work with them.”

GBD’s partnership with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen has been another significant element of Emily’s dance education. Emily joined CBJ’s Mentorship Program after graduating from GBD in 2016. “Even though in mentorship you’re still a student, you’re really part of the company,” shares Emily. “You have to know how to learn things for yourself. You’re more on your own than in a classroom.” As a mentorship student, Emily earned a corps spot in CBJ’s production of Swan Lake and travelled with the company on their west and east coast tours.

Emily’s company training continued in the summer of 2017 when she joined CBJ’s Junior Company program, designed for emerging professional dancers. Emily particularly valued the opportunity to connect with dancers from around the world in this 5-week intensive program. “You get to see how different people interpret ballet and movement. You’re all learning the same thing, but everyone has their own take on it.”

Emily’s exposure to diverse dance artists and styles at GBD and CBJ gave her a strong foundation for an international dance career. Since dancing for the Toronto Argos in 2016, Emily has continued her professional performance work in Shanghai and Tokyo.

Emily has found satisfaction and enjoyment in a variety of dance work, from classical ballet to commercial dance. “Don’t limit yourself to one specific dance genre,” Emily advises. Her versatility and wide range of industry connections have developed into an exciting dance performance career. Emily’s experience at GBD proves that there is no shortage of opportunity to become immersed in the dance industry as a student. “Do the extra things, and remember to sleep and rest,” Emily encourages. “The most important thing is to learn as much as you can.”

Interested in George Brown Dance? Click here to find out more about our programs and register for an audition.

Written by Victoria Campbell Windle, CBJ Communications Contributor.

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