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The DX Diabetes Dish: James Samson

A professional dancer diagnosed with T1 as an adult

James Samson, a professional dancer, has been a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company since February 2001. Originally from Jefferson City, MO, Samson began his dance training at age eight, received a B.F.A. in dance from Southwest Missouri State University and has danced for Charleston Ballet Theatre, Omaha Theatre Company Ballet, Omega Dance Company, New England Ballet, Connecticut Ballet, and the Amy Marshall Dance Company. After experiencing a rash all over his body, weight loss and dry mouth while on tour with the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Samson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 27.

Professional dancer James Samson lives with type 1 diabetes. Photo: Paul B. Goode
Professional dancer James Samson lives with type 1 diabetes. Photo: Paul B. Goode

What is your state of mind today?

Extremely tired. I just started a three-week tour in September with the Paul Taylor Dance Company (PTDC) beginning in Clemson, SC.

How does diabetes affect your training and ability as a professional dancer?

I constantly monitor my diabetes so I can train and perform to my fullest. I check where my glucose reading is before each training session and performance…  because during a dance that may last 25 minutes, there is no time for a sugar fix. As a dancer on stage, if I think or feel that my glucose is dropping, I may get worried or paranoid and lose focus. So I do my best to always be on top of it and to have juice handy backstage if needed. I love the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and have been using it for several years now. With it I have a sense of security, especially as a professional dancer. I’m even able to wear it when I perform on stage, which is super helpful.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Easygoing, understanding and humorous.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

I don’t think it changes who I am at all. I just have to consider my health in a different way compared to many others.

Dancer James Samson. Photo by Paul B. Goode
Dancer James Samson. Photo: Paul B. Goode

What inspires you to do what you do?

So much inspires me. Having the passion for dance, and to perform works by a modern dance icon, genius and trailblazer, Paul Taylor. I get inspired to perform on stage with such physicality and beauty through Mr. Taylor’s work. Watching dance also really inspires me. It’s amazing what dancers can accomplish and I continue to learn from that, hoping to produce the best product I can.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

I appreciate their loyalty and ability to make me laugh constantly. I also appreciate their kindness and love.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

I would throw in many colored T-shirts to wear with my assortment of shorts, a couple pair of swim trunks, sunscreen, flip-flops, sunglasses, goggles and maybe a pair of slacks and polo shirt to have a nice dinner with my husband. Oh yeah, and extra insulin. You know…the usual!

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Not much! I’m away on tour now so I’ll have to refer to when I left. Tang® I made from powder form, in case I need it. There are also cucumbers for [my husband] Andy, an assortment of condiments, eggs, filtered water, hummus and carrots, coffee and extra insulin of course.

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

I have really enjoyed yoga lately, although I don’t have the time to do it as often as I would like. I have found that yoga really agrees with me, and is a great way to cross-train for the style of Mr. Taylor’s work. I also enjoy deep tissue massages and reflexology. Anything associated with a spa day, really.

What is your idea of happiness?

My idea of happiness is always being able to come home to my husband at the end of the day, and to celebrate time with my family back home in Missouri whenever possible. Happiness for me is doing something that I love for a living, which I am fortunate enough to be doing while earning a comfortable income.

What do you most dislike?

Generally speaking, I mostly dislike bad drivers, walking around Times Square, bean sprouts and mosquitoes – they always eat me alive and tend to follow me everywhere.

What words do you try to live by?

The Golden Rule! “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”

If all people abided by this rule, I imagine a world with little or no violence.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is a tortuous death or the unexpected loss of a family member.

What is your greatest extravagance?

It’s not all that extravagant, but really nice meals out with my husband or on tour. Oh, and Starbucks® coffee.

On what occasion do you lie?

To keep from getting too personal, I would say that I might lie to avoid conflict or to get my way in an outcome. However, I would just like to call them “little white lies.”

If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?

Location, location, location. I just wish they lived closer to me.

Who are your heroes in real life?

I’m actually not a huge fan of the word “hero” so consequently I do not have any. I am only inspired by people and find very many to be admired.

What would you choose for your last meal?

My mother’s special: roast beef with oven roasted carrots and cabbage, and mounds of homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, and grilled garlic toast. Mmmm!

What are you looking forward to right now?

I am looking forward to a of couple days off while on tour in Opelika, AL. [The hotel where] we are staying [has] a bowling alley, tennis courts and a resort-like pool and spa surrounded by a golf course to name a few amenities. My priority will be spending some time by the pool, resting and relaxing before the next performance day.

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

 © 2014 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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