“I think we’re in the midst of a really historical time, where the arts have a unique opportunity to offer levity and hope and inspiration at a time of uncertainty.” It’s 9 a.m. on a Thursday, and Devyn Duex wants to talk dance — her words flowing reflexively over a subject matter that she admitted she could “talk about for hours on end.” And by her easy demeanor, you almost forget that between her corporate day job as a financial strategist and her evening role as managing director of Nebula Dance Lab — not to mention being a mother of two — she really shouldn’t have enough extra hours in the day to talk about anything at all. Especially given the fact that in a few days’ time, Duex will be resuming her role as producer of her company’s annual dance festival, bringing more than 100 artists together for four days of multi-genre performances.
Now in its third year, the HH11 Dance Festival (HH11 being the scientific name for a cluster of newborn stars) has grown in size and scope while maintaining its dedication to “fostering an environment of creative freedom and expression of voice,” said Duex. With 27 dance companies hailing from cities across the country, as well as Canada and Europe, the 2017 program will showcase nearly 40 works in a wide range of styles including contemporary, tap, ballet, jazz, classic Indian, hip-hop, and dance film. “This year, our state is well-represented, from San Francisco down to Orange County,” added Duex. “We’re starting to see the trickle-through effects of word of mouth, which is really exciting.”
The festival kicks off on Thursday, February 16, with an afternoon master class headed by Hungarian dance company Feledi Project and cohosted by UCSB, followed by an evening of youth performances at Center Stage Theater and the festival’s presentation of the Apogee Awards, a community ceremony honoring excellence in dance education. “We really wanted a night to celebrate our youth and the educational aspect of dance,” stressed Duex. From Friday through Sunday, the festival will offer audiences three distinctive programs from a catalog of 40 entries, including area companies Weslie Ching Dance, ArtBark International, Robin Bisio Films, and SBCC Dance Company.
When asked to reflect on the evolution of the festival since its 2015 inception, Duex is quick to point out that the current political climate adds a new sense of responsibility absent in years past. “Now more than ever, we have to be vigilant about protecting the integrity and importance of art within our communities. This is an opportunity for us to leave a legacy for future generations that reflect what was going on during this particular point in time.”