Alumni Feature: Frances Samson
Frances Samson grew up in Mississauga and joined CCDT at age 16. She spent 2 years as a Company dancer and an additional season as a guest artist, performing in numerous works and originating roles in creations by Colin Connor, Deborah Lundmark, and Ofilio Sinbadinho. Frances took part in CCDT's recent international tours to Glasgow, Scotland for the 2014 Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, and the 2015 José Limón International Dance Festival in New York City.
Upon graduating high school, Frances continued her dance training at Ryerson University's School of Performance. In 2017, at the age of 20, she became the third CCDT alumna to join the José Limón Dance Company, one of the oldest and most renowned modern repertory companies in the world. Now in her third season with Limón, Frances also works with artists such as Jacqueline Bulnes and Niklas Emborg Gjersøe (NYC/Denmark) and Frog in Hand (Toronto/Mississauga). Frances continues to develop her skills as a performer, rehearsal director, and dance educator in Canada, the USA, and abroad.
Briefly describe your history with CCDT.
I was a company member and Guest Artist for the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre between the years 2013-2016.
What skills did you gain from your experiences at CCDT that have been useful and/or transferable since you have moved on?
In addition to a high caliber of technical training and a number of performance opportunities both nationally and internationally, I learned:
Sustainable and transferable approaches to movement
The ability to interpret abstract concepts
Efficiency in learning choreography
A heightened sense of musicality
The importance of a dynamic warm-up
The ability to learn existing repertory
The responsibilities of a company dancer
Knowledge of the Limón language (typically introduced to dancers in a University Dance Program)
Introduction to Limón repertoire (A rare exposure)
Did you have any favourite work(s) you performed during your time with CCDT? What made it the most fulfilling or memorable to you?
Nowell Sing We will forever remain my favorite of the company’s repertoire. The movement, the score, and the imagery are crafted into a kaleidoscope of magical spatial patterns. The work emanates a spirit of youth and joy representative of the company and the winter season. If I had the opportunity to dance it again, I would!
Frances Samson performing Carol Anderson's Nowell Sing We in CCDT's 2013 production of WinterSong.
Were there any choreographers, teachers, guest teachers or guest artists you worked with at CCDT who have been greatly influential on your training and/or growth as a dancer and artist?
Simple, Natasha Poon Woo and Deborah Lundmark, the two at the core. Their support goes beyond the studio and continues today. They were significant in my technical, artistic and emotional growth. I would not be dancing if it wasn't for their dedication and constant support in helping me realize my potential. Because of them, I continue my love for dance and have a future full of opportunities. Thank you.
In terms of guest artists, I had the opportunity to work with a number of former principal dancers of the Limón Dance Company including Kristen Foote, Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba Tovar, Daniel Fetecua and Roxane D'orleans Juste, as well as Artistic Director, Colin Connor. All of which I have or continue to work with in New York. Each artist offers new information and perspectives which deepen my current understanding of the work and my body’s physique.
Who is currently giving you inspiration?
I am inspired by current and former dancers of the Limón Dance Company, particularly Kristen Foote (another alumna of CCDT). Her energy, inclusion and never-ending research is how I aspire to work. The Limón Dance Company enters its 75th anniversary next year, it is an honor to be part of the legacy.
How did you balance the training and performance demands of CCDT with school, family commitments, and the rest of your life? Can you offer any advice for current CCDT members?
Time management and organization is key, as well as learning to prioritize. Luckily, I also had the support of my family, friends and mentors who influenced my choices.
From Left: Nicholas Ruscica, Essence Haigh-Blackman, and Frances Samson performing José Limón's The Winged in CCDT's 2016 production of Precipice.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about auditioning for CCDT?
[CCDT was] Life-changing. It kickstarted my career.
If you have any inclination to pursue dance as a career, the Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre will help support that desire. In terms of exposing dancers to the demands of a professional work environment, there is no program like it. I have had many encounters with people who wish they had the opportunities that CCDT provided.
In addition to making connections with today’s leading teachers and choreographers, you become part of a lifelong community of supportive artists. These connections continue to develop, deepen and expand over the years globally.
Closing remarks: Is there anything else you would like to share; other memories or advice, words to live by, show recommendations, future aspirations for your career, etc?
Embrace your inner child. With that being said, be driven by your curiosity (we are lifelong learners) and don’t fear embarrassment, even “failures” warrant an outcome.
Take class! I used to be a culprit for skipping class, now it is my favorite part of the day. It is time to research, explore and fall. I always leave feeling physically and emotionally charged.
You can learn more about Frances' training, career, and upcoming performances and projects via the links and videos below:
Frances is also a Limón Modern Instructor at the Peridance Capezio Centre in Manhattan, NY.
Top image by Christopher Jones (for the Limón Company)
Performance photos by David Hou (for CCDT)