Uma Roberts Makes the Most of Every Opportunity
Uma Roberts joined the Young Apprentice Program in 2013, and spent several years among the ranks of CCDT's pre-professional training programs. This season has been her first as a full company member, dancing through the weeks at CCDT and as a grade 11 dance major at Rosedale Heights School of the Arts.
CCDT's recent closure in response to the ongoing pandemic gave Uma ample time to share with us a beautiful collection of insights and memories about her journey with CCDT over the past seven years.
Describe your history with CCDT.
This is my first year as a full Company Member. I started dancing at the School of CCDT when I was only 5 years old, whoa! Over the past 12 years, I have taken many ballet and modern classes, done the summer intensive program (SunDance) eight times, spent one full year in the Young Apprentice Program (YAP), four years in the Core Apprentice Program and one year as a Company Apprentice. Being accepted into the Company this year was a huge highlight for me because I have always looked up to the dancers who were in the Company before me. To finally get into the Company that I love and to share the same passion and love of dance with so many talented dancers is truly amazing.
Describe a few highlights from any previous seasons/productions with the company.
There are many dances that I like that CCDT has done, but these three pieces I particularly like because they are all very different from each other and all very fun to perform in, or to understudy, or to watch and want to be part of! These three pieces are Nowell Sing We and Les Belles Heures by Carol Anderson, and Doyne Suite by Kim Frank.
Nowell Sing We is really joyous and is done to carol music which is always a nice way to end the year before winter break. Also, it's amazing to be a part of this dance since it has been done every year since 1988. Doyne Suite is choreographed to klezmer music which is great because it is so energetic and upbeat. It is a folk dance with amazing movements and energy. Les Belles Heures also has really nice movements. I love the way that all elements flow really nicely together and that the piece tells a story.
Photo: Kaiya Lee, Sydney Runions, Uma Roberts, and Jaedyn Richards performing Carol Anderson's Nowell Sing We in December 2019.
Is there a particular piece you are most excited to be a part of this season? What makes it most exciting to you?
The piece that I am most excited to be a part of this season is that infinite feeling by Alyssa Martin. I love this dance because the choreography lets the dancers express their silly, wacky sides and to have fun with free movement that isn't overly technical. The dialogue is often funny, but also can be very personal, so the audience and the dancers really connect. The costumes for this piece are very fun and colourful which helps bring a good energy to the piece. It's a really fun one to dance in!
Another piece I really liked is one that we performed at WinterSong called A Day of Light by Hanna Kiel. I had a lot of fun with this piece, but to be honest, while the dance looks very fun and not all that challenging, in reality I found some sections to be harder than others. One section I found challenging was the duet I had with Jeffrey Lapira. In this section, each portion of movement had its own eight count, which meant you had to be on top of both the counting and the music to make sure that all of the phrasing and movements were done together and in sync with your partner. Thanks to Jeffrey, I finally got it right by showtime!
Are there any choreographers, teachers, guest teachers or guest artists you have worked with at CCDT who have been greatly influential on your training and/or growth as a dancer and artist?
I am very thankful to have had the chance to work with so many wonderful choreographers and teachers during my years at CCDT. I will always be grateful to Meredith Thompson (YAP Director), Ms. Nicole and Megan (Core Directors), and, of course Ms. Carmen and Ms. Deborah for everything they have done for me. Natasha Poon Woo, Associate Artistic Director and rehearsal director of CCDT's Company has taught me so many things and has pushed me to work so hard and to always try my best. I am so grateful to Natasha for believing in me and for being there for all of us both as dancers and as people. She never misses anything!
I am also lucky to have worked with so many great guest artists, including Sylvie Bouchard, Alyssa Martin, and Carol Anderson.
Highlights of Uma's 2017 SpringSong performance, as a member of the Core Apprentice Program. Click any image for details.
What are you most looking forward to about touring?
I was very much looking forward to going on tour during March because it would have been my first tour. I was excited about the possibility of performing in many different theatres and schools, and spending time with all of my friends in the Company on the long bus rides, in the hotel rooms, and during other free time when we wouldn't be performing. Unfortunately, this did not happen, because of the coronavirus and the need for all of us to stay home in our own houses and apartments. It was such a disappointment when the tour and all of the end of year shows had to be cancelled - including a special duet that I was scheduled to perform with Jaedyn Richards at the Winter Garden Theatre [for United Way Greater Toronto's cancelled Songs of the City 2020].
It has also been really hard not going to CCDT almost everyday like I have been for so many years! I miss seeing everyone and dancing with all the great dancers in the company and all the amazing choreographers and teachers. One bright spot is having Natasha set up Zoom classes to keep us in shape and "together" during this difficult time. Also, I have to admit that being home all this time has been great because I have had more time to hangout with my parents, to connect with friends and other family members, as well as learning new things, and to catch up on my sleep. Haha!
How do you do your best to balance the training and performance demands of CCDT with school, family commitments, and the rest of your life?
Time management is very important. With all of the time I spend dancing at CCDT there is not that much extra time to get my school work done and to spend time with my family. But, because I really don't have time do other things, I feel I make the most of my limited time to get a lot done. Sometimes I think if I had more free time I might actually get less done because I would slack off or allow myself to get distracted more often. Personally, I find I like being busy instead of bored.
What skills do you think your training, performing, and overall experience with CCDT have given you that are transferable to other aspects of your life?
CCDT has taught me self-discipline, time management skills, and how to work together with other people to create something great. Dancing on stage has also helped prepare me for presenting in front of my school classes, and has given me more self-confidence. Over the years, I have become much more able to perform, even though I am always still nervous before stepping on stage. The challenges of practice and performance that come with being a member of the Company have helped me to gain confidence in other areas of my life, and I know they will continue to help me as I keep growing as a dancer.
Uma, far right, with fellow cast members in rehearsal for that infinite feeling's 2020 remount. Choreography by Alyssa Martin.
What's something interesting about you that most people don't know?
Most people don't know that I was born and lived in India until I was almost five years old. I was adopted by my parents and moved to Canada in 2007. I am told that when I was born, I was the smallest baby in the hospital. Today, I am still the smallest dancer in the Company!
What other hobbies or interests do you have? What are you obsessed with these days?
I play the piano. I love sports like ball-hockey, basketball and running. And I like to read, listen and dance to music for hours in my living room, and eat Indian take-out... a lot of Indian take-out. These days, I am obsessed with learning new recipes, bubble tea, the TV show "Lost in Space" and TikTok!
Who is someone who regularly inspires you as a dancer/artist/creator/human being?
I have two people who really inspire me. The first is -- ok, it's actually two people -- my parents, because they believe in me and they never give up on me. They are always there to support and love me and to help me push through any rough times. They also are very positive people, so they help me to also be as positive as I can be in my life.
The second person who inspires me is a former CCDT company member, Frances Samson, who is now in the Limón Company in New York City. I have always looked up to Frances because she is a beautiful, strong, feisty dancer who proves that you can do anything if you put your mind to it... and she is small like me!
Share one of your favourite personal memories about your time with CCDT.
There are so many memories I have about my time at CCDT so far. One of them that really sticks with me is one of my first performances at the School of CCDT end-of-year show. The theme was Alice in Wonderland and I got to be the Rabbit. I still remember jumping around with a big cotton ball stuck to me as a tail and laughing a lot as I was being chased all around the studio by the dancer playing Alice. It's kind of silly, but it always makes me smile to think of it.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about auditioning for CCDT?
Just go for it. Be yourself and try your best. Never worry about what anyone else thinks of you. Your should know that being in the Company is a huge commitment, so you have to be dedicated, but if you are thinking of really pursuing dance either during school or after school, CCDT is a great place to dance and it's also a lot of fun. We are all different individuals that bring our own talents to the Company and that's what makes CCDT so great, so always be yourself.
A parting quote from Uma:
"Seven times down. Eight times up. Such is life." - Japanese Proverb
From left: Nikkie Jeong, Uma Roberts, Soraya Lee Wo, Lola Rose Jenkins, Paris Forbes, and Kaiya Lee performing A Day of Light at WinterSong 2019. Choreography by Hanna Kiel.
Although CCDT's performance season has been forced to come to an early conclusion this spring, Uma is taking part in the Company's digital collaboration between Artistic Director Deborah Lundmark and famed electric violinist Dr. Draw. Keep an eye on our social channels in the coming weeks for updates and the upcoming video release for Draw's latest track, Acquaviva, starring CCDT company dancers. Next season, Uma will be back on stage for the 33rd edition of WinterSong, December 2020.
Outdoor photo and SpringSong 2017 photos by Francesca Chudnoff
Performance photos by David Hou