Helanius J. Wilkins’s humbling and inspirational character gently permeated the room during the Presenting Denver Dance Festival Master Class and Preview Performance series on March 17, 2018. His master class began by creating a community space with dancers in a circle speaking and changing space with one another, which then grew into an exploration of movement. This passion for community, exploration of self and others is a common theme in Wilkins’s teaching, performance, choreography, and personal life.
Although originally from Louisiana, Wilkins’s heart and soul thrived in the east coast hustle and bustle. While residing in Washington, D.C., he founded EDGEWORKS Dance Theater. This group of all male, mostly African-American dancers work to break down the stereotype of men in dance by providing a platform for men to experience vulnerability and express themselves. After two trips to the University of Colorado, Boulder, for teaching opportunities, Wilkins was inspired by the dance department and took an Assistant Professorship position. Now in his second year, he remains an artist in motion, working on projects on the east coast, but is committed to building up the Denver/Boulder area dance community.
Wilkins accepted the invitation to participate in the Presenting Denver Dance Festival because the festival is an opportunity to share his artistry as well as introduce himself and his work locally. This artist’s “calling” to choreography is his conduit to shaping an inclusive local dance community. In his role as professor he encourages and provides the opportunity for his students to take part in this community. Wilkins strives to eliminate the hierarchy in dance and believes dance is a means of communication.
The excerpt Wilkins shared with the audience at the Preview Performance is in its initial stages of development. The piece is an exploration of movement that expresses patience, curiosity, and self-awareness during this new stage of his life. The solo piece– not his first, though he does not consider himself a soloist– has sprouted at a unique time. Wilkins is constructing the piece through memory imprint and sensory engagement as he discovers new aspects of his life and career in Colorado. He is taking the time to incubate and work on himself and his craft, while also sharing the journey with a willing audience.
Wilkins is designing his life with an optimistic spirit, continuing to explore dance and invigorate his community. As an artist he is grounded in his craft to allow discovery of choreography to take place with the audience. The new and exciting aspects of Wilkins’s scene inspire him and promise to persist as a driving force as he develops this evocative work for the Presenting Denver Dance Festival later this summer.
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.