MM: Cleo Parker Robinson

Cleo Parker Robinson, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance

CLEO PARKER ROBINSON is founder and artistic director of the 51-year-old Denver-based Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), encompassing the renowned Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (CPRDE), Cleo II (her 2nd company), a Youth Ensemble, an Academy of Dance, an International Summer Dance Institute, a 240-seat theatre, and multiple community engagement programs nationally and internationally. A master teacher/choreographer and cultural ambassador, she and CPRDE have performed nationwide, throughout Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and the African continent, with recent international tours in 2019 to Bogota, Colombia, and Mexico.

Ms. Parker Robinson’s numerous accolades include the Colorado Governor’s Award for Excellence (1974), Denver Mayor’s Award (1979), induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (1989) and the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame (1994). She holds Honorary Doctorates from Denver University (1991), Colorado College (2003), Regis University in Denver (2008), an Alumni Award from University of Denver (2021), CU Boulder (2021), and is an Honorary Member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (2021). In 2011, she was voted an Honorary Lifetime Trustee of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, in recognition of her lasting impact on the Center. She is also an honoree of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. In June 2017, she received the prestigious DanceUSA Honor Award and in September 2017, the Randy Weeks Arts Leadership Award from the Denver School of the Arts.

Ms. Robinson has served on NEA panels on Dance, Expansion Arts, Arts America, and Inter-Arts panels for the USIS, and for the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts as well as other national task forces, boards, and committees. In April 1999, she was appointed by then-President William Jefferson Clinton, with Senate confirmation, to serve for four years on the National Council on the Arts, a 14-member panel advising the Chairman of the NEA on agency policy and programs, reviewing and making recommendations on grant applications. 

Since 2011, Ms. Parker Robinson has returned to her greatest passion as a choreographer, creating Dreamcatchers: The Untold Stories of the Americas and the world premiere of Romeo and Juliet, in collaboration with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. On the Edge…  Reaching to Higher Ground (October of 2014) addressed resurging racial and human rights infractions world-wide. She re-staged two works (Spring 2017), melding classical and jazz composition with modern dance – Romeo and Juliet and Porgy and Bess. Copacetic: A Tribute to Jonathon “JP” Parker (Fall 2017) honored her late father. Lark Ascending (Spring 2018) was a collaboration with the Boulder Philharmonic. Rhapsody in Black, a collaboration with CPRD Associate Artistic Director, Winifred R. Harris, premiered at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, University of Denver. In January 2019, in collaboration with the Denver Brass, she choreographed an innovative interpretation of Bernstein’s On the Town and Spring 2019 saw a collaboration with the Colorado Ballet entitled The MOVE/ment as part of the Tour de Force series at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Center for the Performing Arts. In 2019, she set a work on CPRDE alum Gary Abbot’s UMKC students, entitled Check Cashing Day in tribute to the jazz genius of Bobby Watson and Milt Abel. In August 2021, she premiered Standing On the Shoulders, a work commissioned by the Vail Dance Festival. September 2021 saw the debut of Freedom Dance, created with jazz icon Dianne Reeves and CPRD co-founder and poet, Schyleen Qualls and in October 2021, she premiered R.I.Power, commissioned by the Colorado College Fine Arts Center in Colorado Springs. April 2022 sees the premiere of her newest commissioned works for Motown and More, in collaboration with the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus.