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Cleo Parker Robinson

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Information about Cleo Parker Robinson

Profile image of Cleo Parker Robinson

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Artistic Director
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Orange, Purple
Favorite Food:
Cheesecake
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
That's Really Deep.

Birthplace

Born:
7/17/1948
Birth Location:
Denver, Colorado

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Artistic Director
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Orange, Purple
Favorite Food:
Cheesecake
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Hawaii
Favorite Quote:
That's Really Deep.

Birthplace

Born:
7/17/1948
Birth Location:
Denver
See how Cleo Parker Robinson is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Denver native Cleo Parker Robinson was born on July 17, 1948. She almost died at age ten when her kidneys shut down and a segregated Dallas hospital did not admit her quickly enough to prevent heart failure. A doctor told her she would remain bedridden her entire life, but Robinson refused to believe that. She threw herself into dancing in order to overcome the pain of her body and the racism she faced. Today, she is the executive artistic director and choreographer of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Robinson began teaching dance at the University of Colorado at the age of fifteen. She graduated from the Colorado Women's College (now Denver University), having focused on dance, education and psychology. She studied with legendary dancer and humanitarian Katherine Dunham and then founded her own company in 1970. The mission of this ensemble is to foster appreciation, access and the development of new audiences for dance. Robinson attempts to educate audiences about the rich heritage and ancestral gifts on which this predominately African American ensemble draws through a year-round dance school, an international summer dance institute and national and international performances. Robinson also seeks to ensure the arts are carried on by future generations. A program called Project Self-Discovery (PSD) demonstrates her commitment to youth outreach. PSD provides the arts to at-risk Denver youth as an alternative to gang activity, substance abuse and other tragic possibilities. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has performed in prisons, and some inmates have worked for the company after release. Robinson firmly believes in the healing power of art and that dance is a universal language.

Robinson has collaborated with many people on diverse projects, from operas such as Aida and Carmen to commissions with mentor Maya Angelou. She has worked with Marin Alsop, conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, on such pieces as Porgy and Bess and Stravinsky's The Firebird. She has been granted choreography fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace Foundation, among others. Robinson was featured in the Gordon Parks film, Run Sister Run. She serves as first vice president of the International Association of Blacks in Dance and as a Denver Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees member.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Photo - Portrait of Cleo Parker Robinson, Denver, Colorado, 2001
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Photo - Dancer Marceline Freeman performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Photo - Dancer Terrell Davis performing 'The Coming of the Dawn' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Photo - Dancers Ryan Leveille and Terrell Davis, performing 'Three Too Blue' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2001
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Photo - Dancers Patrick Peel and Sheila Mackow performing 'Temple in Motion' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2000
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Photo - Cleo Parker Robinson with her dance ensemble on the cover of 'Dance Teacher' magazine, September, 2000
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Photo - Members of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble performing 'Thinking Heart', 2000
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Photo - Dancers Terrell Davis and Lisa Thomas performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Photo - Dancer Rachael Ashley performing 'Salome's Daughters' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, ca. 1998
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Cleo Parker Robinson's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares stories about her ancestry
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her parents' musical aspirations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the racial experience in Denver in the 1950s
  • Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains her father's initial interest in theater
  • Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her experiences as a child in both Denver and Dallas
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects on the Denver neighborhood of her youth
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares a story about the difficulties her parents experienced while trying to get married
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks fondly of her father as her role model
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's acting roles and his theater company in Denver
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the plays performed by her father's theater company
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her feelings about suddenly being separated from her father
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's return and her racial awareness
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson details the black and white communities in Texas discriminating against her
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls almost dying as a child and her family's dealings with a segregated hospital
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her brush with death affected her spirituality
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes attending an all-white high school in Denver
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her high school ambition to be a dancer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells a story about the discovery of her half siblings
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the power and importance of the arts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the origins of her love for teaching dance
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her multicultural philosophy in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experience at Colorado Women's College
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells of her father's hiring as the director of Colorado Women's College's dance theater
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson's interview, session 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her start as a dance instructor
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her social life in high school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early athletic involvement
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her work with the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Brighton, Colorado
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her early career aspirations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her start at Colorado Women's College in Denver, Colorado
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her early dance instruction at Colorado Women's College
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early mentors
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experiences as a dance student in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls marrying Tom Robinson
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers joining the Model Cities Cultural Center in Denver, Colorado
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her career at the Model Cities Cultural Center
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the start of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance company
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early choreography
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the dance piece, 'Rain Dance'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early dance studios
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 2
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her work with Talley Beatty
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her philosophy of dance instruction
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers Curtis Fraser
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her co-founder, Schyleen Qualls
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the development of her choreography
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the piece, 'Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares her advice to African American youth
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson narrates her photographs