This week’s Dancer/Choreographer shout out goes to. Thomas Colford. Young, determined and everything to prove. Thomas was born on the small island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia where he began his dance career. After years of casually taking classes at Cape Breton School of the Arts and Northside Dance Unlimited, he decided that dance was something he wanted to work at in his early teen years. At 16, this hunger for dance, and persistent work ethic brought him to Toronto, where he began his professional career as a dancer. Just after one year, Thomas had been part of shows such as “The Love Project” (Artistic Edge Dance Company) “Project DABDA” (Toronto Fringe Festival)
“The Male Initiative 1 Year Anniversary Showcase” and ” Frost” (Cadence Contemporary Ballet Company) while working with choreographers such as Brian Friedman, Scott Fordham, Mark Samuels, Leon Blackwood, Ricky Hines, Shavar Blackwood and Julia Cratchley, to name a few. Thomas prides himself on being a truly versatile performer as he is skilled in Contemporary, Hip Hop, an experienced parter, Jazz, Tap, Modern, Lyrical, Ballet, Ballroom, and Musical Theatre as well as acting, singing and several musical instruments. His training began in his hometown studio but he has since enriched his education through his travels across the continent and time spent with the prestigious Mather Dance Company, The Male Initiative, YYZ Company, and The Pulse on Tour’s Protégé Scholarship Program, where he has had the opportunity to regularly train with their faculty (Brian Friedman, Gil Duldulao, Dave Scott, Tyce Diorio, Laurieann Gibson and Ian Eastwood, to name a few). He has been featured in pieces as part of Culture Shock D.C., World of Dance, The Bazaar, Toronto’s Original Choreographers Ball, and most recently, Dance Made In Canada where he performed with Cadence Contemporary Ballet Company’s newest work “Excerso”. You may have seen Thomas in corporate campaigns and commercials for IÖGO, Ciniplex and Toronto International Film Festival; music videos for Canadian recording artists such as Shawn Desman, Nikki Yanofsky and the Vicious Vixens; on TV performing in the opening ceremonies of the 2011 Canada Games (TSN2) or more recently dancing with Down with Webster in the 2013 MMVA’s (Much Music Video Awards); and soon to be seen on the silver screen, as he has just wrapped on the set of “God The Father” (Director Simon Fellows, choreographer Shannon Mather). Thomas is quick to learn and adapt, loves working with people, and jumps at any opportunity to dance or perform. Now as a member of Mather Dance Company’s 2013-2014 senior roster, where he has had the opportunity to intimately train from week to week with Shannon Mather, Blake McGrath and Allen Cooper, to name a few, while simultaneously perfuming
and showcasing throughout the West Coast. This young artist shows no signs of slowing down, always remembering his mantra “Made With Purpose”.
Bio provided by Thomas
Follow Thomas on Twitter @TLColford
Follow Thomas on Instagram @TLColford
Find out what Thomas had to say in this week’s feature…
Nikki: Do you remember the first time you started dancing?
Thomas: My brother started dancing just before I was born so it was something kind of always around my life. My
earliest memory of me dancing is doing gallops across the floor with one of the assistants (S/O to Beth Davey!) at the
studio, waiting to pick up my brother. It wasn’t until I was 14 that I really started to take dance and training seriously, thinking maybe I could do something with it after high school.
Nikki: Do you remember the first song you choreographed to? (Or your earliest memory)
Thomas: I would always play around with movement and make “shows” for my family when I was a kid. Then years
later, in grade 8, I choreographed part of my classes Christmas Talent Show act to “Let It Rock” by Kevin Rudolph and Lil’ Wayne. To say the least, we received mixed reviews.
Nikki: Your personal advice for dancers when it comes to free styling?
Thomas: For me I just try to not think and really zone into the music and see how it fits into what I’m feeling, or just
picking what I want to work on that day and and really explore and play with that concept or idea. My main advice
would be just don’t be afraid to fail, try new things, some will work and some won’t but you’ll learn from it all.
However, for free styling at auditions, I’d say match the character they are looking to cast or your version of it. Pull out your best material, be strategic, take calculated risks, and go in deep.
Nikki: Getting in the zone to choreograph, what does it take for you?
Thomas: At this point in my career I’m really just playing around with choreography for my own benefit and artisticdevelopment. But, for choreography I really try to think about what I want to say or what I want to pull out from the music. Then it’s just listening to the song over and over and over again until I know exactly the kind of impression I want to leave on the audience, and the energy I want to put into it and create with it.
Nikki: What made you decide to move to Toronto from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia??
Thomas: By the time I graduated I was 16 and knew dance was the only thing I wanted to do with my life, but I also knew I had a lot of work left to do. At that point my brother had been living in Toronto for 5 years so I came up to visit him on my spring break. Before going I googled Toronto dance classes and found OIP, Metro Movement, BDX and City Dance Corps (S/O to Irv Washington for being so welcoming from the start) and started youtubing and researching all the teachers I could find. After days of videos and reading every entry on your blog (twice) I made up an itinerary full of as many classes I could fit into the day. SO then, after that week, my entire view on dance changed, from being introduced to so many new ideas and concepts and styles. It was like every class was a break-through and I could feel the growth after each day. I just loved that feeling of being surrounded by such a wealth of seemingly endless knowledge and I knew this was where I needed to be to take the next step towards my dreams and goals. A lot of people, some very close to me, told me I was making a mistake or I was too young, that I should wait another year or two; but I have never for one second regretted that decision.
Nikki: Who are some of your biggest influences in the Dance industry?
Thomas: Shavar Blackwood without question, would be the largest in Toronto. Almost right after moving here I
happened to go to a random audition for experience, which it turned out was for his training program; The Male
Initiative. And despite what was definitely a brutal audition on my part, I think Shavar saw how badly I desired to learn and luckily decided to give me the benefit of the doubt. From him I learned so much and almost every opportunity I’ve gotten since then has either directly, or indirectly (through the habits and skills he’s taught me) come from him. Matt Marr has been a HUGE inspiration to me since I was 13 and played an important role in deciding on whether I should move to Toronto or stay home and wait. Also in Toronto Leon Blackwood, Alvin Collantes, Julia Cratchley and Courtnae Bowman, they each consistently encouraged me and provided me with fantastic opportunities to work or just to grow as an artist, always there with a helping hand. In the Industry as a whole Brian Friedman is a huge influence and inspiration of mine, also Shannon Mather, Blake McGrath, Tessandra Chavez, Tony Tzar and Erica Sobol.!!
Nikki: Name a Toronto Choreographer you enjoy working with and why?
Thomas: Anytime I get to work with Shavar and/or Leon Blackwood it’s always a fantastic experience. Both of them are just genuine artists. In their own ways, they each know how to constantly push their dancers right up to curtain rise. Always asking for more, which causes their dancers to discover parts of themselves they didn’t know were in them. They each have such a very specific idea of what they want and demand nothing short of excellence from their dancers, all while never compromising their artistic integrity. Scott Fordham is also another choreographer I love working for. He always comes in and just see’s what the project needs and matches his vision to it perfectly. Every time I’ve worked with Scott it’s been very high standards to meet but a spectacular experience. I could go on but I’m very thankful for each of these men and all they’ve done for me.
Nikki: Name one of your favorite artists to work with and why? (It does not have to be a pop star. Any type of artist
that a Dancer would work with i.e.; another Dancer, Choreographer, Musician etc.)
Thomas: It’s really hard to pick one, but I loved working with Nikki Yanofsky on her “Something New” video. She’s
just this tremendous talent and I honestly love her music. SO friendly through out the entire shoot and a work ethic
that’s on point. I’d jump at the opportunity to work with her again. It’s also a great time whenever I’m blessed to get to work with my close friends, those have been some of my favourite projects.
Nikki: Qualities you believe Toronto Dancers possess?
Thomas: I think Toronto dancers are never satisfied, and to me that’s an amazing thing. Once they reach one goal they don’t sit around patting themselves on the back or feeling boost, they’re immediately looking at what’s next. Where do I go from here? How can I become more? And I think this is a big part of what gives them, and the city, this incredible energy to keep hustling and working their asses off. And because so many people are all pushing to get to higher levels it’s like once you settle you’re finished, so everyone just keeps pushing.
Nikki: Any advice for emerging dancers and choreographers working/training in Toronto?
Thomas: My advice to emerging dancers would be:
BE VERSATILE. There’s already a shortage of work in the city, don’t allow yourself to miss out on half of it. And not just good enough to fake it, really dive in and find people who are masters of what they do and learn all that you can from them.
FIND YOUR CIRCLE. Surround yourself with people who will always be honest with you. Nobody needs a group of people who just tell them how beat they are. Sometimes you’re wack and you need to know what’s good.
TAKE CLASS. Not just from choreographers you know like you, but from the ones you feel least
comfortable in, these will push your comfort zone and make you a better dancer. Build your weak
areas and develop your strengths.
BUILD YOUR NETWORK. A lot of this takes place in class and at shows, events and conventions.
Be active in the community and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone, especially if you
admire their work. Know your community and know who’s gonna be reliable.
DREAM BIG. Don’t let the size of your ambitions discourage you. Desires are placed in our heart for
a reason and directly tie into our purpose and our full potential. Don’t back down from opportunities,
work hard and make sure your actions reflect your long term goals.
COMPASSION. Just be a fucking good person. Don’t get so competitive that you forget that people
need help. Encourage the people around you, a kind word could be just what they need after a rough
class or audition. I would be nowhere without the small army of people who have encouraged me,
given me opportunities and supported me through the good and the bad.
Nikki: Any upcoming projects, shows or classes you would like to share with the T.D.O.T. network?
Thomas: At the moment I’m in Southern California performing and showcasing with Mather Dance Company, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Toronto for a bit and diving into the community for a little while in August!
THANK YOU THOMAS FOR SHARING YOUR LOVE & PASSION WITH T.D.O.T. XO
CHECK OUT THOMAS’ DEMO REEL
THOMAS IN A PIECE BY SHANNON MATHER