Samantha Hines: Dancing in the moment

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Self-effacing, straight-forward and statuesque: these are just some words to describe this dazzling dancer. A profile by Susan Bendall.

In Stephanie Lake's 'Manifesto'.
In Stephanie Lake's 'Manifesto'.


Anyone following contemporary dance in the past decade will have been dazzled by the substantial talents of Samantha Hines. She has that "can’t take your eyes off" quality that draws an audience. In person, Hines comes across as someone who embraces every opportunity, and is eager for the next experience. She is self-effacing and describes herself as “straight-forward” and “chill”. She is altogether refreshing and direct.

Hines started her professional career dancing with Garry Stewart’s Australian Dance Theatre, where she spent four years before moving on to Dance North. Since then she has been working freelance with Lucy Guerin and Stephanie Lake, among others. She has recently been touring with Stephanie Lake Company in the thrilling Manifesto, a work for nine dancers and nine drummers, followed by Guerin retrospective for the new Frame Festival in Melbourne. So where did Hines’s passion for dance start?

Hines always danced, taking classes as a child in Sydney, where she threw herself into all styles. She followed up her early training at the renowned Ev and Bow school, doing full-time dance from the age of fifteen. But Hines didn’t start off wanting to be a contemporary dancer and was more focused on a career in commercial dance. In fact, one early dream was to be a Moulin Rouge dancer. With her stature, talent and determination, that could have been a very realistic aspiration. Luckily for us, she ultimately directed her energies to contemporary dance.

In rehearsal for 'Manifesto'. Photo by Paul Malek.
In rehearsal for 'Manifesto'. Photo by Paul Malek.

Her turning point came when she was doing back-up dancing for a gig. By this time she had an agent and was taking on work. Hines had a revelation. “What am I doing here? I could be doing anything!”. With a pre-existing offer to study at New Zealand School of Dance, Hines headed over the ditch at the age of 17 and spent two years studying contemporary seriously. When I ask Hines why NZSD?, she replies, with a grin “Why not?” “Why not go to a whole new country where you don’t know anyone?” she asks, self-mockingly. She notes that the elite reputation of NZSD was also a major draw.

Hines describes herself as being “pretty loose” as a person and flexible in her approach to life and work, as illustrated by her move to New Zealand. However, her story indicates a lot of determination and focus. She campaigned hard to get into ADT, which she had set her sights on early, and did what she could to be seen by Garry Stewart, including secondments from NZSD and an audition – a total of five visits in all. At the end of 2012, after graduating from NZSD, the dream became reality. Her first gig with the company was a three-month overseas tour, starting soon after. Hines describes her early experience as a 19-year-old in her first company job as a bit of a whirlwind. She felt “very young” and says, ”I learnt so many lessons. I’d never been overseas. I had a great time.” The tour included Stewart’s G, Proximity and Multiverse, among other works.

Hines admits that she had no idea what being a member of a professional company meant when she was fresh into it. She had to learn, among other things, what kind of movement language fitted with Stewart’s vision. It was a process of observing and learning what he took from his dancers and then moulding herself into the company.

Performing with Dancenorth in 'Bowergirl'. Photo: Amber Haines.
Performing with Dancenorth in 'Bowergirl'. Photo: Amber Haines.

She describes her next venture, as a company dancer with Dancenorth, as being “very nurturing” but lockdown ultimately got the better of her and she started to find Townsville a bit small for her need for change and renewal. As she says of herself: “I love chaos and moving around a lot”. She rebels against monotony and staying in the same place. However, she is glowing about the community and the opportunities it gave her. She loved the team and the community focus (she had first met artistic director Kyle and Amber Haines when they danced together at ADT).

Especially she cherishes the chances she had to work with the Torres Strait people of Poruma Island, particularly the primary school children. It is clear that this period of her professional and personal life remains precious. "I really love how community based they [Dancenorth] are . . . really focused on the people around them. The experiences I had there I will never be able to have anywhere else.” Hines describes Dancenorth as a very “heart based” company.

During her five years with the company she performed in a range of works, including One Infinity, Surge and Rainbow Vomit. It was here that she first made her own work as part of the Tomorrow Makers program. She reflects, “When you make, you get a whole new insight into you under stress. You don’t sleep and you just obsess.”

In 'The Beginning of Nature' with Australian Dance Theatre at Womadelaide. Photo by Tony Lewis.
In 'The Beginning of Nature' (centre) with Australian Dance Theatre at Womadelaide. Photo by Tony Lewis.

For the time being though, Hines describes herself as “still very much in the team zone”, loving the energy of bodies dancing together. For her, “performing is the crux of dance. Some of my friends like the process, and that’s interesting, but that moment of sharing with the audience, and also with your counter peers – for me that’s the pinnacle.”

Asking Hines about her passions outside dance, she tells me that she loves all forms of art and is “very tactile”. She knits, crochets and likes creating not-quite-right soft toys – “grotesque monsters” via these crafts. She is currently working with a designer to create a wearable artwork in which to explore improvisations.

Being a performer isn’t just about the career and the self. Through her approach to dance, Hines reminds us of the impact that each dancer has on the ecology of the artform. When I approached Stephanie Lake for a comment on what she valued most about Hines, the answer resonated with the richness of Hines’s contribution to the artform and to the lives and work of those around her.

“I don't know where to start with my praise for Samantha," Lake says. "She is a phenomenal dancer and absolutely magnetic on stage. She is a beautifully articulate and skilled dancer but on top of that she dances with a humanity that reaches people emotionally. There are a number of times she's made me cry in the studio. She's a very unique improviser with a brilliant combination of virtuosity and frailty all at once. Hines is a wonderful and ever generous collaborator and such a warm, nurturing part of a team. Everyone loves Samantha.”

In rehearsal for 'Manifesto'. Photo by Paul Malek.
In rehearsal for 'Manifesto'. Photo by Paul Malek.

The advice that Hines gives to professionals starting out? “Persistence,” she answers quickly. She also comments that it is very important to do anything that interests you and not to set limits on this. “Do anything in any realm: if you want to paint, if you want to write, if you want to make music, do it because it will all go into the body.” She also stresses: “Be nice to people and you will always get work," citing examples in her career of being recommended for jobs by others. Hines is also very clear-sighted on the issue of auditions, noting: “It’s not about you, it’s about the role, don’t take it too personally” and emphasises “just keep doing it!"

Hines is currently dipping her toes into the prospect of work away from Australia, while maintaining projects here. She spent February in London, exploring possibilities. We can’t wait to hear what transpires.

 This article was first published in the April/May/June issue of 'Dance Australia'. Don't be late! Subscribe here.

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