Skip to main content

Artist Features

I Am YEG Arts: Deviani Andrea

August 24, 2023

At 25 years of age, Deviani Andrea gave herself five years to fully devote to creating a career in dance. Just a few months later the dance artist had her first breakthrough and was accepted into Citadel Theatre’s RBC Horizon Emerging Artists Program. Today Deviani has hit her stride as a dance artist – she’s a Good Women Dance Collective member, choreographer, teacher and arts administrator. In this week’s I Am YEG Arts feature, Deviani Andrea tells us how she’s made a home for herself in Edmonton’s dance community, and shares some of the lessons she’s learned so far and what’s next for her. 

Tell us about your connection to Edmonton and why you’ve made it your home. 

I am originally from Mexico City. I lived all my childhood and teenage years there and I studied at university there. My dad sponsored me and my brother to come to Canada. It was a very privileged way to immigrate to Canada because I had all the doors open, I only had to choose a career. It’s kind of like Edmonton chose me in a way. I also lived in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montréal – and I fell in love with Montréal because it’s a beautiful city. When I finished my degree back in Mexico City, I moved to Montréal. But maybe it was because of a language barrier – my French is not as good as my English – or that I had no family, friends, or acquaintances in Montréal, that I felt completely alone there.

Whereas here in Edmonton, people have always been so welcoming, and very supportive. I decided to move back to Edmonton to be closer to family and since then – it’s home! At least in my experience, whenever people from the dance community see that someone wants to work and create here, they find opportunities for that artist. So, I feel very blessed to have fallen into that network of support. 

How did you get your start as a dance artist? Was it something that you always planned on making a career of? 

When I was younger I wanted to be a chemist, but in highschool I had a teacher that inspired me to choose arts. I started my dance training quite late at 17 years old. I started with Mexican folk dance, not even ballet or these big techniques that people tend to relate to professional dance. And then yes, I trained in Graham (a contemporary dance technique), ballet, and jazz. 

I didn’t have a lot of support in my family because it was like, well, if you wanted to be a dancer, this is a decision that you needed to make years ago.” I was 22 or 23 years old when I moved to Edmonton and I was working different jobs. On my 25th birthday, I told my brother, I don’t know what I want to do. I’m not satisfied with how things are going here.” He asked what I really wanted to do, and I said, I actually want to be a dancer.” Thanks to that conversation I said, I’m going to give myself five years to truly dedicate myself to dance.” 

A couple of months after, my first big chance was with Citadel Theatre. I got into their RBC Horizon Emerging Artists Program in 2020. It was later that I realized many people started to look at me thanks to that opportunity. Thanks to that program, I created my first choreographic piece. It also opened the door for me to get involved with dance in theatre and dance creation. I worked with Ainsley Hillyard as my mentor, and she has been one of the most important people in my career. I’d ask Ainsley for professional advice here and there I have a feeling that these conversations showed her I was eager and really trying to establish a career in dance. Two years after our first collaboration, she invited me to become part of the Good Women Dance Collective and the rest is history. 

Tell us about how you’ve found community through Good Women Dance Collective (GWDC).

It was like a dream come true. I started my relationship with GWDC by going to their weekly classes. GWDC has different opportunities such as the scholarship program, which means that if you apply you can come to the classes for free or free studio space for different artists, not only dancers. So, I started to apply until one time I got accepted for the scholarship program. I became a more frequent presence in the studio. They used to hire me as front-of-house staff for their events and I used to volunteer. Also, outside of Good Women, Ainsley and I taught together at the Citadel Theatre, and I kind of developed this sister relationship with her. In the summer of last year, I got a call from Ainsley and she asked, Do you want to be part of Good Women?” And I said, Of course!” 

Since my dance career started so late I have so many doubts about my abilities – those feelings that I’m not good enough and I don’t have enough training. But if Good Women sees something in me and they want me to be there with them of course I will say yes! I will find in myself the thing that they see in me and I’m just going to believe in that. 

Good Women is so fearless and community-driven. They collaborate with the deaf community, with CRIPSiE (The Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton) which is a different abilities dance group in the city. They are also interested in care policies, you know, like how can we engage with caregivers without forcing them to forget about their care duties. Good Women is expanding my understanding of how dance can be implemented into different communities and how beneficial that is. One of the mandates of Good Women is to keep uplifting emerging artists. Good Women is connected to what is happening right now, and it’s also connected to what is coming. So it’s a really fun place to be. 

What is your advice for emerging dancers looking to get involved in the Edmonton dance community?

Based on my experience, try to be present as much as possible to whomever you want to collaborate with. Be it GWDC, Mile Zero or any group that calls to you. Be aware that it’s also hard. Dance is not the most popular art form in the province in general. It’s going to be harder for a dance artist to get support in comparison to, let’s say, theatre folk who have like all these super powerful networks in the city. This is not to discourage people, it’s just the way of the game. However, because it’s so hard and dance is limited, the good thing about that is that you can always ask for support from people in dance who have who are in a higher status or that hold more power. They want to know about and help people who want to take dance as a career. 

I am moderately successful with my grant applications. The successful ones are where I am simpler and honest, and I try to convey the joy that the project will give me. If you are enjoying what you’re doing, even if it’s not a funny subject for a person, just convey that passion and people will respond.

Tell us about what you’re currently working on or hoping to explore next. 

I’m going to be the apprentice and also the producer of GWDC’s annual production: Convergence, which will be happening from November 16 to the 18th at the Westbury Theatre. And I’m also planning Mile Zero Dance’s season launch on September 8th called Wild it will feature different artists, not only dancers, but we also have a spoken word, circus, music, DJs and drag. It’s going to be very fun! 

As an artist, I have two things that I’m really passionate about right now. The first one is horror. I want to create horror on stage. I started to watch a lot of horror movies and got passionate about that and I’m curious about how to create that feeling or that engagement with something. Because anything can happen in a movie, but in a theatre, you’re seeing everything. So, what kind of tools and tricks can you use to scare people? 

On the opposite side, I am an advocate for dance. I think everybody should be involved with dance in any capacity – as a viewer, as someone who practices. When I say I’m a contemporary dancer people reply like What is that?” And honestly, it’s very hard to explain. Because as with any kind of art, you need to be educated, you need to be exposed to it. So, what I’m trying to do is a satirical dance show to make it more digestible for people to approach contemporary dance. Instead of me trying to say, Come and enjoy contemporary dance,” I’m going to make you laugh with contemporary dance.” So yeah, I wanna make people laugh and I wanna make people scared. And that’s the beauty of being an artist. Because you can do both. 

What excites you most about Edmonton’s dance scene right now? 

Now that I have an understanding of the dance community, I have the ability to connect with other artistic communities such as music or with visual artists or multidisciplinary artists to make dance more present in the arts world. The younger generational dancers that I see are so creative and talented. People coming from the BFA program in Theatre at the U of A who are interested in dance: it’s like a breath of fresh air working and learning from them. 

There are some very talented artists – who have toured around the world – who are choosing Edmonton as their home base. So something is happening here. Edmonton is a relatively affordable city. It’s a city that can be welcoming to artists who don’t have a lot of extra income to spend. It feels like something is starting to boil in Edmonton slowly but steadily, something is growing. I’m also really excited, because then again, now that I have this knowledge of the dance community in Edmonton, let’s go to Calgary. You know, we’re so close. Artists from Calgary are also excited about that. Yeah, just putting Edmonton on the map, exchanging knowledge and having fun. That’s what excites me! 

Self portrait by Deviani Andrea.
About Deviani Andrea

Deviani Andrea (she/​her) is a dance artist based in Amiskwaciwâskahikan / Edmonton. Originally from Mexico City, she holds a BA in Literature from the University of Mexico and studied at the Mexico City’s Dance School and Ema Pulido’s Dance Studio. Since landing in Canada, Deviani has worked as a performer, instructor, and choreographer with many local dance and theatre companies such as the Citadel Theatre, Azimuth Theatre, Skirts Afire, Mile Zero Dance, Fringe Festival, Found Festival, Alberta Musical Theatre Company, among others. She has been a Good Woman since 2022.

She is certified in Trauma Informed Care and as a Kaeja Elevations teacher; has trained at La Infinita Compañia (Mexico City), Decidedly Jazz Dance (Calgary), and her independent work has been kindly supported by the Edmonton Arts Council, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and The CanDance Network. 

She likes biking in the summer and skiing in the winter, brewing kombucha, and consuming content in different languages. Catch her on Instagram at @deviani.andrea.

Want more YEG Arts Stories? We’ll be sharing them here and on social media using the hashtag #IamYegArts. Follow along!