DANCE: THE REVOLUTION
Dance company founder and director Pi (a.k.a. Allegra) DuVal utilizes dance to better herself and her community, promoting kindness and solidarity as she teaches, choreographs, performs and works for social justice. Although her path has not been easy, the Colorado native strives to be a support and foundation for others facing difficulties, especially for women and girls. “Even though life may fall apart and you have nothing left, you can still make something of yourself.” Pi’s motivation, life lessons, and contagious compassionate attitude make her an ideal teacher for kids who are less fortunate. Pi is involved with the Colfax Community Network teaching hip-hop to children of transient families and also teaches at Feel the Beat, a Denver area studio for the deaf and hard of hearing. Pi is also an instructor at dance2b, a Denver studio dedicated to adults.
Pi DuVal’s dance career began at her mother’s dance studio. DuVal’s mom danced with the Radio City Rockettes in the 1970s, was a back-up dancer in the film Grease 2 and opened one of the first studios in the small town of Crested Butte. When speaking about her mother, Pi radiates with pride and gratitude. She refers to her experiences as a young dancer and teacher as though she was long aware that dance would be a driving force in her life. The studio’s participation– by invitation– in a performance tour in Italy provided Pi’s first opportunity to choreograph and exposed her to the power of dance. Despite a devastating personal loss and frequent hardship, Pi persevered in her practice of the art form. After high school graduation she attended Arizona State to major in dance. Encouraged by a professor to seek a commercial dance focus outside of the college setting, Pi made life decisions and had life experiences that kept her from dancing and put her in a “dark place.”
Thankfully, the passion and positive childhood memories of dance and performance encouraged Pi to rejoin the dance scene. Pi returned to her home state and auditioned her way into the go-go dance company Team EZ. The company had local performances in Denver nightclubs, traveled to Los Angeles for shows, and performed at the closing ceremony for the Indianapolis 500. Team EZ’s performance at the Indy 500 was Pi’s first time choreographing professionally. It was an “insane” experience that was televised, and added fuel to Pi’s fire to dance.
Pi left the company after six years and immersed herself in various performance and dance projects throughout the city. As Pi worked her way through Denver studios teaching, adding to her already lengthy resume, she found dance2b. Pi refers to this studio as one of the “best discoveries” of her life and career. While refining her pedagogical and training techniques, opportunities have surfaced thanks to the dance2b network. One highlight was the establishment of her first performance series, entitled “Possessed”. The series aired on National Dance Day in association with a local news broadcaster.
By late 2016 Pi, like many Americans, was appalled by how divided the country proved itself to be after the presidential election. When asked what drove her to start her own company, Pi expressed her disappointment and heartbreak over witnessing incidents of hate and disrespect. “I have to stand up and say something about this. I have to make an impact.” So the young, driven, multifaceted artist established Dance is Love. Dance is Love’s mission, which strongly aligns with Pi’s life motto, is to create, educate, and inspire. Pi speaks of this company as revolutionary and believes it will make a positive impact in the Denver community.
The company’s performance at the RAW Artists Showcase in Denver in early 2017 brought sympathetic, supportive attention to numerous social issues including race, gender equality, women’s rights, gay marriage, and domestic abuse. The choreography featured contemporary, lyrical, and hip-hop movements in solo and duet vignettes, accompanied by powerful music, spoken word, and American Sign Language.
Dance is Love again delivered an inspired performance at Denver PrideFest 2017 on the main stage, joyfully rocking the audience. The company was in the top two of 160 companies to audition for the opportunity to perform at the festival, not once but four times. When Pi spoke of the audition experience and the rehearsal process, her excitement was palpable. With the sponsorship and support of dance2b and Feel the Beat, the company got straight to work. Watching a video of the company’s main show performance it is obvious the dancers are in their element, exploding with energy. The eight-minute-long piece spotlighted a local drag queen and demonstrated support for equal rights, inclusive ideas of beauty, and combating bullying. Dance is Love has been asked to be the official dance company of Denver PrideFest for the next two years.
Pi confidently, and rightly so, states that Dance is Love is the “one that will stick”. This is the company that will make a name for itself as it both grows within and expands outside the Denver dance community. Pi has not yet experienced any negative discourse from the community but if it happens, “those are the kind of things I just ignore. Fighting hate with hate is not the way it is going to get better. I’ll just kill them with kindness.” Clearly, the young trailblazer is ready for any heat that may come her way.
Pi believes her role in the Denver dance community is be a “creator and pioneer of a revolution…I want to have more of an impact and revolutionize the dance scene…I want the audience to be more involved.” Pi plans to continue tackling the opportunities that are presenting themselves in Denver as well as take her company on a national tour, continuing to spread the love and artistry Dance is Love has to share.
Sutton Anker currently lives in her hometown of Littleton, Colorado. Her love of dance took root at a young age when she began dancing at a local studio. This passion grew and carried through into college and beyond. Sutton earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance Science from the University of Wyoming, followed by a Master’s of Science in Dance Science from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London. Her technical training is in ballet, release technique, Horton, modern, tap, jazz, vertical dance, hip-hop, pointe, and functional fitness. Throughout her B.F.A. at UW, Sutton performed in various productions including From the Ashes: A Cinderella Ballet, Duet and Power/Full (a Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company production), The Nutcracker, Boxed Set, and Six Songs from Ellis.
Sutton has a keen interest in motor learning, motor development, and pedagogical techniques, taking several kinesiology classes in her undergraduate and graduate programs. Sutton has presented at several dance science conferences, including the 2010 Performing Arts Medical Association Conference (Specific Stretching for Individual Needs), the 2013 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference (Effect of Mirrors on Dancers’ Ability to Learn Movement), and the 2016 International Association of Dance Medicine and Science Conference in Hong Kong (Master’s thesis – An Investigation of the Pedagogical Rationales for Current Mirror Use in a Ballet Technique Class).
Sutton currently works at Foothills Park and Recreation District in Children’s Programs. She has a passion for empowering kids’ creativity and educating youth on physical and mental health. Sutton continues to engage in dance by teaching at local studios, participating in classes and workshops, volunteering with Presenting Denver, and pursuing her research interests.