by Laura Veraldo
Twelve members of The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company (CPRD), an internationally esteemed dance organization based in Denver, concluded a whirlwind performance tour of Grand County over the weekend, which featured four events in as many days. Their tour of Grand County was made possible by hosts Susan and Steve Struna of the Denver Ballet Guild, as well as support from multiple local organizations.
On the morning of Thursday, October 10, two groups of dancers from CPRD performed at both Granby and Fraser Elementary, inspiring the students and staff at each school. Edgar Aguirre, a Guatemalan dancer who is enjoying his first season with CPRD, exclaimed that the studio’s school outreach program was one of his favorite parts about dancing with the company.
Chloe Abel was in the group of five dancers who performed for Granby Elementary. Originally from Kansas City, she is the CPRD Rehearsal Director, and is currently in her eighth season with the company. She performed a piece for the school called “Everything Must Change,” which was choreographed by Cleo Parker Robinson and featured Bettye Miller on the piano and Milt Abel, Chloe’s father, on the bass. When asked about dancing, Chloe remarked, “We as dancers interpret the dance. We add another layer. Movement can translate an accent.”
After the performance, the dancers taught some moves to the students, and invited the audience to stand and dance along. The dancers also taught the schools the meaning of Ago Ame, an African call-and-response: Ago meaning “listen,” or “attention,” and Ame meaning “I am listening” or “we are listening.” Teachers were inspired to learn this new phrase. The dancers concluded their performance by imparting their philosophy of “Peace, love, and respect for everyone!”
Two of the male dancers, John E. Roberts and Davry Ratcliffe, were an inspiration to the young elementary school boys. At Granby Elementary, Roberts received a leaping hug from a student after his performance. Granby Elementary Principal Kelly Martin stated she was very happy that her son was one of the students able to see the dancers, as her son is an aspiring young dancer himself.
On the morning of Friday, October 11, a free community dance class was offered for learners of all ages and levels from 10:00am until noon at the Grand Lake Community Center. This class, attended by twenty adults and twenty children, provided an in-depth look at the physical demands and discipline needed by professional dancers, whose daily rehearsal regiment can last upwards of six hours or more.
Dancers filled the stage of the Grand Lake Community Center on Saturday night, October 12, performing eight separate pieces for an audience of two hundred people. Dancers Samiyah Lynnice, Jasmine Fransisco, and Ralaya Goshea were among those who performed, dancing to music by artists such as Aretha Franklin and James Brown. These dancers said that it is natural to be able to dance to such powerful music made by soulful singers. The evening’s performance was especially meaningful for Ralaya Goshea, who danced flawlessly despite nursing a sprained ankle.
After the performance, Cleo Parker Robinson invited children in the audience to dance on the stage. This invitation was immediately seized upon by many Grand County kids. Robinson told the children that they are our future and the reason for her doing what she does.
After the performance on Saturday, the dance troupe attended an after-party at the Daven Haven Lodge in Grand Lake. The general consensus among the performers was that, while Grand County was one of the coldest and highest elevated locations they’d ever performed in, the challenge was well worth the experience of sharing their talent and joy for dancing with the community.
Cleo Parker Robinson, a member of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame and the founder of CPRD, is a world-renowned choreographer and an inspiration to the city of Denver. She was born in Denver’s historic Five Points District, the child of two musicians; her mother played symphony instruments and her father played the horns. She grew up singing in choirs and was surrounded by music. “Music moves the body. The body doesn’t move the music!” Parker said on the evening of Saturday, October 12. “Music is a vibration and there is a spiritual connection.”
Cleo Parker Robinson Studio will be having a holiday performance in Denver called Granny Dances to the Holiday Drum. For more information on upcoming shows, performances, outreaches, and classes, visit www. cleoparkerdance.org. If you are interested in making a donation to the Denver Ballet Guild, who helped bring this company to Grand County, visit www.denverballetguild.org.