The right costume and the right fashion sense are vital in the world of commercial dance. In both her work as a dancer and her international travels, Katherine Burrowes has developed her own wide-ranging sense of style.
Currently, Burrowes is the co-artistic director and operations manager of illFX Entertainment, a company that puts together shows for public and corporate events, and illFX Education, which offers training for those interested in pursuing jobs dancing in touring productions or music videos. Burrowes helped create the company as a response to the lack of opportunities for dancers in Calgary.
Despite not starting her dance training until she was a teenager, Burrowes was a natural from the start. After earning her bachelor of arts in dance with distinction from the University of Calgary, Burrowes continued her training in Toronto, New York City, London and Japan. Influenced by her love of travel and dance, Burrowes incorporates these passions into her fashion choices.
How did you first get into dancing?
I didn’t start training at a studio until I was 14, which in the dance community is quite old. A lot of professional dancers start in ballet class when they’re three. But I always danced, just kind of to the beat of my own drum, I guess. I joined the Youth Singers of Calgary when I was in Grade five, and that was the first time I did instructed dancing.
How do you think illFX has helped Calgary’s dance community grow?
When we were younger, there wasn’t a lot of commercial dance in the city. There was a good underground hip-hop scene in terms of breaking and funk styles, but there wasn’t a big commercial world. When we first started our dance crew, we would hold competitions, which I think encouraged other people to put together teams and practice and come out to show what they’ve got. The beginning [around 2009] was the first time that we saw a choreography scene coming out.
How do you find outfits for your shows?
I try to pay attention to current trends in the dance world, figure out what people are wearing there, and then make sure it suits the tone of the piece and the event we’re performing at. We could perform the same piece at a public festival and at a corporate event, and I would costume them completely differently. We do a lot of themed events, so it will be like a ’20s theme or a ’70s theme or a funk theme. And obviously it has to be something comfortable that dancers can move in.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s a bit weird. It’s very eclectic because, obviously, I live in the dance world. I take a lot of inspiration from hip-hop culture, but then I also really like classic, elegant styles, so when I get dressed up I probably go a little more in that direction. I love just adding weird stuff. I love cats, so I have a lot of cat clothes, which I’m sure most people wouldn’t wear, but I like it so I wear it. I like really odd, bright ’90s-inspired pieces, and I do a lot of vintage shopping.
In what ways do you think your style has evolved?
I’ve gone through a lot of phases; I think everybody has. I went to Japan in October and that boosted my eye for fashion again, because Japan is so amazing and the fashion there is so incredible. Just standing around and watching everyone look amazing, it really made me think: “How could I use my wardrobe? How could I have more fun with my wardrobe?”
How has your involvement in dance affected your everyday fashion?
It has probably made me appreciate fashion more because, in my job, I’m not really required to look good. A lot of people have to look professional when they go to work, but me? I show up in a T-shirt and sweatpants and that’s totally acceptable. I think it has just made me appreciate fashion on the days that I do get to put together an outfit. It’s fun, whereas, I think for a lot of people, it’s work.
What do you like to wear when you’re not at work?
If I don’t have to dance – I say have to dance, I love to dance – but if I don’t have to work that day, then I will almost always wear jeans. I love jeans. To me, they’re like comfy clothes, I know people take off jeans and put on leggings and sweatpants, but I work in leggings and sweatpants, so I put on jeans.
How do your fashion choices represent you?
I think style is all about confidence. I try to show that I’m confident in my clothes – that’s maybe why I choose some bold things that I think other people wouldn’t wear. But I don’t like to try too hard; I don’t like to put in a lot of time and effort. I like to throw things together but look effortlessly put together. I don’t know if I accomplish that, but it’s what I’m going for.
Jumpsuit from bebe; belt and earrings with rhinestones by Miss Randi Lee from Miss Bliss in Sidney, B.C.; gold shoes from Blame Betty; necklace was found in an abandoned guitar amp left in the lobby of Burrowes’ apartment building.
Lightning round with Katherine Burrowes
There’s a shop in Sidney, B.C. called Miss Bliss and they have really cute clothes, which is funny because it’s a retirement town – everyone there is 90, but they have this one store that’s really young and hip.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pop star for a while.
Cats or dogs?
Always cats. I do have a cat, his name is Sam, and he’s fat, white and deaf. He was You-Tube-famous for a brief time.
How can you find him on YouTube?
Look up “Cat Meatloaf.”
Favourite Calgary bar?
I really like the vibe of Proof.
Favourite Calgary treat?
What word do you overuse?
Hype. I say hype all the time.
Any kind of cultural adventure.
People who don’t signal when they’re driving.
Favourite fictional heroine?
What’s your greatest extravagance?
Travel. I don’t have a lot of stuff, but I like to get away.
If you could be reborn in any era, which one would you choose?
Fashion-wise, I would maybe go back to the ’50s, but in real life I don’t think I would go back in time because being a woman sucked in earlier times.