Simon Fraser University School for the Contemporary Arts Vancouver / Coast Salish territory, BC, Canada

Over its thirty year history, SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts has produced outstanding alumni who have gone on to play a major role in redefining the arts in Canada. 

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Below are some examples of performance related projects developed by students in their undergraduate studies. These projects started from a range of inspirations and took on many different processes.  Some include an abstract written by the group in collaboration.

The Red Thread

The Red thread is a dance performance piece based on a Japanese proverb about the invisible red thread which is said to connect one to their beloved.  As the story goes, Destiny ties this sacred thread to the pinky finger of each lover and their love is thought to last only as long as the thread remains in one piece.  In this performance, the idea of the red thread is used to illustrate human relationships in three main sections; starting with the discovery of the string and its boundaries, leading to the excitement of exploration, and finally derailment into separation and chaos.  These stages of a relationship are represented in the varying uses of the string and alo act as the main narrative through line.  The string is introduced as a simple object that can be effortlessly manipulated by the performers, however, as the piece continues, the string starts to take on authority; dictating the movements of the performers.  The string acts as a simple prop, a framing device, a metaphor and narrative, it illustrates geometric shapes and alters the architecture of the space. The string is always in flux as human relationships often are.  


Foiled is made in collaboration between two visual artists and one composer.  It is an interactive landscape instillation where the audience will get the opportunity to immerse into a full body experience through sensation and sound while engaging with aluminum foil.  Since there are also objects hidden (such as wood panels, bubble wrap, styrofoam boards, etc.) under the large sheets of foil, this piece will further explore the sensations such as anticipation and surprise.  We will also incorporate lighting, which will not only help create a changing atmosphere, but will also emphasize certain shapes and forms.  This work will also address chance, as the participants will have to make choices and depend on instinct in order to establish their next move.  Foiled will focus on kinesthetic response and duration as the audience will determine how long to experience the work.   

Crusade of the Lost Jelly Beans

Crusade of the Lost Jelly Beans is a hybrid interactive-theatre piece, combining multi-media installation with performance art, intended to merge or blur the roles of the audience or participant and that of the performer.  The piece is inspired by gaming and, therefore, incorporates aspects of role-playing games (RPG’s), which exist in various formats, including video games, tabletop and live-action.  An initial impetus for this piece was a desire to create a work in which the overall aesthetic experience would incorporate the five senses.  The senses thus being a thematic anchor, led to the concept of “discernment”, then to the notion of “challenge”, which is central to any game.  Participants are assigned a series of tasks based on the five senses, all of which involve jelly beans. The themes of “quest” or “adventure” – also common in games, and, particularly, RPG’s – provide a narrative structure for the piece.

Crusade of the Lost Jelly Beans is a tribute to the high degree of creativity involved in the development of games and, at its most fundamental level, the piece is a fun experience for the participants. Yet, ultimately, it is also intended to stimulate a discussion about what aspects of creativity contribute to what may or may not be considered “art.” Several questions of interest inevitably arise from an experience of Crusade of the Lost Jelly Beans. For example, to what degree is a gaming experience – especially that celebrating joy and fun – also an aesthetic experience, i.e. an experience of art? To what degree does a work of art – “serious” in its intent, if not in its content – incorporate fun and a sense of play and yet retain its integrity as art? Finally, is Crusade of the Lost Jelly Beans a work of art or is it just a game?

Leaves of Change?

Leaves of Change? was first inspired by those living with creativity in their lives and those just passing the time.  Influenced by their own chosen disciplines (dance, music and visual culture and performance) Amberlee, Tegan, Lauren, Chelsea and Makailia collaborated in attempts of creating a piece that could perhaps explore one person’s “transformation in progress”.  As their creative process progressed the statement “I just want everybody to be the same (an Andy Warhol quote), became an anchor point to build off on and pull inspiration from.  The artists wanted to design the work in such a way where it was not clear to whom the statement was refereeing. 

The artists posed the following questions:

  • Does this statement revolve around the central character’s intention of is it that of the collective?

  • Does the fact of having a situation turn out to be staged or false, make one person’s genuine experience unjustified?

The artists wanted the audience to enter into a more tactile environment, where they could tap into their own senses (mainly touch, sight and sound).  The room is dark and the sound of heavy rain and storms surrounds the room.  One by one, the audience is lead to the “performance area”.  The sound of rain is now more distant and one light hangs above a woman alone.  Throughout the work they witness this one person’s “transformation in progress”.  Just as the “central character” begins to immerse herself in her new environment, the piece ends.  Leaving the audience and the woman in an unclear state of mind.

Image Based

We created visual scores that were later translated into compositions in sound, movement or film.  We also exchanged visual scores with musicians who played them live while projects were performed based on the same score.  It's a way of translating times, dynamics and space from images to the three dimensional space- and works for dance, theater, music, visual art and film. 

Many projects that started with a walk, an image or concept ended up evolving into sound scores.  Some with a combination of movement and or images.  Below are some examples.

Sound Walk

Sound artist Hildegard Westercamp lead a sound walk in Gas Town (downtown Vancouver) which took the group down alleyways, into stores, hallways, busy streets and waterfront.  After an hour walk, we returned to the studio and the participants did some free writing based on the walk.  This writing became the inspiration for devised compositional projects in sound, movement, and video works. 

Below are a series of video clips from projects ranging from sound installations, short experimental films to performances with shadows.