SFU alumna Katie DeVries is thrilled about showing her work for the first time at contemporary dance festival Dancing on the Edge. “It’s a pretty big honour — I’m an emerging artist, so it’s a great privilege to be alongside these experienced artists.” DeVries is a big fan of another SFU alumna, Vanessa Goodman, who will perform her newest full length work, what belongs to you, at the festival.
“I was finishing my [dance honours] degree,” said DeVries, “and I decided to do a directed study creating my own work and it became a show called The December Project. It draws from a lot of ideas and there’s no narrative, but it’s about torment and loss and the idea of being consumed throughout life. There’s also a through line of perseverance, and my son is in the piece so there’s subtle imagery of the passing on of life.”
This work has since evolved — the version to be presented is called Feast and will be performed in the courtyard of the Firehall Arts Centre. Performing outdoors is a new thing for this piece, explained DeVries. “It’s been challenging to adapt it to an outside setting.” In the theatre the lighting was very low to create an eerie and moody tone, but outdoors it’s hard to replicate that. “I’m excited by that challenge,” said Devries.
Dark lighting compliments the mood of Feast, which is almost like a haunted wedding, said DeVries. “There’s a table at the back covered in lettuce heads, and [the work] takes on a kind of haunted feel or a wedding gone wrong,” she laughed.
Apart from her performance at Dancing on the Edge, DeVries is working on a new piece that will be performed on International Dance Day in April 2015. She is also working on a show with the working title Two Great Truths with Daisy Thompson who recently completed her MFA in dance at SFU. Their collaboration will also be performed on International Dance Day at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
DeVries said that supporting festivals and events such as Dancing on the Edge is extremely important. “Contemporary dance is not always understandable, but I would encourage people to come and see what a wide range of choreography there is.” She also hopes that audiences will test themselves and expand their perspectives: “They might be pleasantly surprised.”
Not every piece is visually appealing, but DeVries explained that “even if you don’t find them beautiful, they are valuable.” In her piece, there is a moment when the dancers hiss at the lettuce heads and then smash them with their fists. At first glance that might look strange, but it adds to the show and you can even smell the lettuce, she explained, “it’s a very visceral experience.”
DeVries enjoys experimenting with aspects that are new and different. “I played with smells — perfumes and scentscapes instead of soundscapes,” she said describing one show where she released perfumes at certain points during the performance.
DeVries spoke fondly of her time spent at SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts. “It was absolutely what I needed both technically and for doing my own composition,” she said. “I came out of SFU with an idea of myself as an artist. It set me on the path to success.” While DeVries has recently graduated and feels like she’s still figuring out her artistic voice, and she also feels that SFU gave her the tools to succeed: “I’m emerging, but I’m on my way.”
Feast will be performed on July 12 as part of Dancing on the Edge. For more information about the festival, visit dancingontheedge.org.