Win earns Chilliwack dancer the chance of a lifetime

Chilliwack dancer Jocelyn Heaps was awarded a $35,000 scholarship to the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

Chilliwack dance instructor Jocelyn Heaps

Chilliwack dance instructor Jocelyn Heaps

Jocelyn Heaps shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to belt out Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ come January.

The 20-year-old dance instructor has lived her whole life in “small-town” Chilliwack, but this winter, she’ll be packing her bags for the Big Apple where she will be attending the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts.

For those of you who don’t know, this school is like the Harvard for the theatrically minded. Alumni have included Matthew Fox of Lost, Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls, several actors from Glee, the Footloose remake, and more.

“It’s like crazy to think about,” said Heaps. “It’s a pretty big opportunity.”

An opportunity that was granted after Heaps, a petite young woman with California-blonde hair, beat out hundreds of other performers at the World Championship of Performing Arts competition held in Los Angeles last month to secure a three-year, $35,000 scholarship.

In a competition that had shades of America’s Next Top Model with its boot-camp style classes, go-see auditions, judged performances, and where performers required an invite to even audition, Heaps came in first for her solo hip-hop dance routine, third for her street jazz number, seventh for runway modeling, and made it to the semi finals for her acting monologues.

“It was intense,” she said, noting there were thousands watching in the audience, many of who were scouts and talent agencies.

Heaps is no stranger to competition. Ever since starting in dance, she’s been regularly competing, has choreographed commercials for Aviva hair products and Lululemon, and is currently a backup dancer for teenage heartthrob Brock Zanrosso.

And yet, when her name was announced as the winner of the scholarship, it didn’t register. Fellow competitors sitting next to her nudged her, told her she had won, started screaming and cheering for her. Her mom and nana burst into tears. But for Heaps, it was all a daze.

“I didn’t even know they called my name,” she said. “I was so shocked, I didn’t see it coming at all.”

Heaps was also awarded an industry award, granted to just 25 of the performers.

Quite impressive given that prior to the competition, Heaps had never done any acting or runway modeling, and has only been dancing for eight years, teaching for six.

Her love for the medium came hard and fast in elementary school when a friend brought her along to a hip-hop class. At the time, Heaps was already ingrained in other sports that included soccer, baseball and basketball, but as soon as her feet hit the studio floor, “I knew this was what I wanted to do,” she said. “I knew it was something I would drop everything for.”

One year after starting, she was assisting classes. Two years after, she was teaching. And for the last four years, she’s been a regular fixture at Project Dance Hip Hop in Chilliwack.

Heaps hopes her entrance into the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts will lead her down a path towards continuing her teaching career, choreographing music videos, and one day dancing backup for Beyoncé.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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