Umran Sumen

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Umran's first experience as an immigrant was when she was a child, and moved to Turkey. She came to Canada much later in life, and used her career as a ballerina in the arts to help settle in to life in Calgary.


My name is Umran Sumen. I’m a former ballerina and current artistic director, choreographer, and a teacher with a Masters of Arts degree in classical ballet.

My first experience as an immigrant began when I was only eight years old. In 1955, my family emigrated from Skopje in the former Yugoslavia - now Macedonia - to Ankara, Turkey. It was a difficult move - first of all because of the vast cultural differences, and also because of the language. The following year, I was accepted to the state conservatoire. From more than three hundred applicants, only eight candidates were accepted. In Turkey, the state conservatoire is a very prestigious institution, offering intensive training in music, opera, drama, and classical ballet. It also offers a full academic curriculum. Public support for the arts was a fundamental part of my education and cultural environment, and it profoundly affected my experience as an immigrant to Canada almost three decades later.

It was during my professional career that I met my future husband – a geologist. While still a dancer, we married, started a family, and had two bright sons. We began to search for the best educational opportunities available for our children. Canada, a prosperous, peaceful and progressive nation, seemed the ideal destination. Through contacts with my husband’s position with Gulf Oil and Canadian friends in the company, we decided to emigrate to Canada. It was a difficult period. We had an established life in Turkey, and were very well known. My husband, a prominent geologist and entrepreneur, had also been a member of the national volleyball team. I had been a member of the national ballet company as a leading soloist for almost two decades. The emotional impact of leaving our relatives and friends far behind on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean remains difficult to this day.

We moved to Calgary, Alberta, in the winter of 1982. I was impressed with the atmosphere of tolerance and respect for the arts in this young and growing country. The beauty of nature and the sense of harmony in the community have been a source of inspiration for me since my arrival.

I was welcomed to the community, and I received kindness and respect for my background in the dance world. In this climate of interest and support, I was encouraged to continue to pursue my life’s work in the field of classical ballet. I am actively involved in bringing the beauty and discipline of classical ballet to the community of Alberta and Canada, and take part in training the next generation of Canadian classical ballet artists. My mission is to build a deeper sense of awareness, self-esteem and respect in the younger generation, and pass this legacy to the community. I would like to thank my friends, supporters and all Calgarians for their unwavering support to bring world-class ballet education to Calgary.

I am proud to be a Canadian now. I feel that I have made a significant contribution to the art of classical ballet in Calgary and the west.