Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) is a cultural ambassador, infusing vitality, innovation and education into every community we touch—around the corner and around the globe.
Every action we perform is done with the intent to transform ourselves and others; to give a voice to the voiceless; to leave a lasting legacy of excellence and understanding.
CPRD was founded in 1970 and became a 501(c)(3) Not-for-Profit organization in 1974, continuing to build upon its dance school and ensemble origins. For five decades, we have developed into an internationally esteemed organization that operates beyond the traditional performing arts model.
There are five pillars of the organization, namely, the CPRD Ensemble, Academy, Theatre, Education Programs and Art in Wellbeing. Working in concert, CPRD programs have created an oasis where a varied population—by gender, race, age and ethnicity—gather to study and appreciate a modern, cross-cultural approach to creative community development. Housed in the historic A.M.E. Shorter Church in Five Points, CPRD serves as a convener of community, art and dance.
Photo: Bamboula: Musician’s Brew, choreographed by Millicent Johnnie. Image: Jerry Metellus.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance: 52 Years as a cultural anchor in Denver. We invite you to our Year In Review (click on the link to the right). Photo: Martha Wirth.
Cleo Parker Robinson is founder, artistic director and choreographer of the 50-year-old Denver-based artistic institution, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. She leads a professional dance Ensemble, Youth and Junior Youth Ensembles, a Dance Academy, an International Summer Dance Institute, a 240-seat …+
Cleo Parker Robinson is founder, artistic director and choreographer of the 50-year-old Denver-based artistic institution, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. She leads a professional dance Ensemble, Youth and Junior Youth Ensembles, a Dance Academy, an International Summer Dance Institute, a 240-seat theatre that bears her name, and a myriad of community outreach programs. She continues to be the recipient of honors and awards from civic, community, and artistic organizations around the world, and is called on by a myriad of organizations and performance venues to bring her Ensemble for performances, and to conduct workshops, master classes, and motivational seminars. Her philosophy of “One Spirit, Many Voices” is reflected in all she does, and is the vision she brings to everyone she meets, everywhere she goes.
A master teacher/choreographer and cultural ambassador she has taught and performed with her Ensemble in such diverse places as Iceland, Singapore, Hawaii, Nassau, Belize, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, throughout Europe, and throughout the African continent. People of all ages and backgrounds have participated in Ms. Parker Robinson’s workshops and master classes at conservatories, universities and neighborhood dance centers worldwide Ms. Parker Robinson’s awards include the Colorado’s Governor’s Award for Excellence (1974), Denver’s Mayor’s Award (1979), induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (1989) and the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame (1994). Recognized in Who’s Who in America Colleges and Universities she holds Honorary Doctorate from Denver University (1991), an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Colorado College (2003), and an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service from Regis University in Denver (2008). Ms. Parker Robinson was a long-standing member of the Board of Directors for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and in 1998 Cleo Parker Robinson Dance became an affiliate of the Center.
In 1998, President Clinton named Ms. Parker Robinson as one of two artists to be appointed to the National Council on the Arts where she served until 2005 as one of the two appointed members of the fourteen-member council in Washington D.C. In 2005, Ms. Parker Robinson received a Kennedy Center Medal of Honor during the Center’s “Masters of African American Choreographers” series. Also in 2005, Ms. Parker Robinson received the King M. Trimble Community Award for service to the Denver community.
Ms. Robinson received the first-ever Peaceful Heart Award from Mile-Hi Church, and was honored by the Colorado Gospel Hall of Fame, and the Metro State College Plain & Fancy Ball. In 2006, she received the “Jill” Award from the South Suburban Denver Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., honoring her work with young people. Also in 2006, Ms. Parker Robinson was honored as a “Pioneer In Black Dance” by the Dynamic Dance Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2007, she received the Huntington’s Disease of America Distinguished Leadership Award., the “Fairfax B. Holmes Community Award” from The Denver Links, Inc. and the “Unsung Heroes Mountain Award” from African American Leadership Institute. In 2008, she was awarded the President’s Award of the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, the Civil Rights Award of the Anti-Defamation League, and the Civil Rights Medallion of the Rachel B. Noel Distinguished Visiting Professorship program.
In 2009, Ms. Robinson received the Metropolitan State College of Denver’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Award for Service to the Community, and the Dr. Martin King Jr. / William “Bill” Roberts Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award. Most recently, she was awarded the 2009 NEWSED Civil Rights Award, and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Urban League of Metropolitan Denver (2010).
Malik Robinson grew up and into his role at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in African Studies from Regis University, he officially began his tenure as Development Director winning national awards for the acclaimed Ensemble. Malik …+
Malik Robinson grew up and into his role at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in African Studies from Regis University, he officially began his tenure as Development Director winning national awards for the acclaimed Ensemble. Malik then moved on to Booking Manager increasing the Ensemble’s annual tours to 15 cities nationwide. Leading with the arts as a force for transformation and peace, he secured and lead tours to Israel and Egypt during times of heightened civil unrest. Before being named Executive Director in 2014, Malik developed and directed evidenced-based after-school programming recognized for positive findings. Malik is active on several arts organization boards and initiatives as well as a member of the Denver Metro Chamber’s Leadership Denver Class of 2015 and a Bonfils Stanton Foundation 2015 Livingston Fellow.
“Malik has demonstrated a keen ability to provide strong management while developing strategic partnerships to ensure the legacy of one of Colorado’s longest operating cultural arts institutions.”
–Gwen Brewer, CPRD Board Chair
Cleo Parker Robinson is a graduate of the University of Denver, formerly Colorado Women’s College (CWC), in the field of Dance, Education and Psychology. Mrs. Parker Robinson began teaching college level dance at the age of fifteen at the University of Colorado and co-founded New Dance Theatre (d.b.a. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance) by the time she graduated from CWC. As the Executive Artistic Director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Mrs. Parker Robinson toured the dance ensemble throughout the world including Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Italy, Nigeria, Germany, Brazil, Peru, Belize, Singapore and South Africa. She has also created nationally recognized education programming linking extraordinary artists with communities throughout the country. Mrs. Parker Robinson has received numerous civic and academic awards for her service. Awards and honors include: 1974 – Governor’s award for excellence; 1979 – Mayor’s Award; 1991 – Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Denver; 2002 – University of California Irvine Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor; 2003 – Honorary Doctorate from Colorado College; and 2008 – Honorary Doctorate in Public Service from Regis University. In 1999, she was appointed by former President William Jefferson Clinton, and confirmed by the Senate to the National Council on the Arts.
Lisa Levin Appel is a retired attorney and entrepreneur with two young adult children and a beloved little dog. She served on the Board of Trustees of Colorado Ballet, including a few years as Secretary of the Board, from 2007 through 2019, when she elected to move to their Emeritus Board. In 2008 she joined the Board of Trustees of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where she is currently nearing the end of her term (at the beginning of 2023). At the Museum she was on the Executive Committee and chaired the Compensation Committee since 2012. In 2014 Lisa joined the Board of Directors of WINGS Foundation serving as the Secretary of the Board for most of her time. WINGS supports adult survivors of child sexual abuse, primarily by providing therapist facilitated support groups for survivors and for their loved ones. In 2016 she received the inaugural Marilyn Van Derber Atler Heart of Courage Award.
Jehan Benton-Clark is a portfolio director with the Colorado Health Foundation where she oversees an investment portfolio of over $35 million annually. Trained as a social worker, Jehan has extensive experience coordinating public-private partnerships, implementing and supporting initiatives, and overseeing investments of local, state, federal, and private funding. With experience in capacity building, early childhood, and homelessness, she is passionate about facilitating opportunities for people and communities to address and solve their own challenges. This passion has fueled her work in philanthropy, where she has spent her career working to shift how philanthropy responds to and invests in communities they exist to serve.
Early in her career, Jehan worked within two housing authorities in North Carolina and as a behavioral health treatment counselor in Illinois where she developed a deeper understanding of the systemic challenges of structural racism and poverty that affect communities of color, low wealth communities and rural places. She also is attuned to the power of relationships, working with the private sector and government, and centering authentic engagement. With these passions, she strives to make positive impacts in communities, both personally and professionally.
Dance and free expression through movement has been a passion for Jehan from an early age. For sixteen years of her life she practiced various forms of dance and she credits this with her appreciation for the arts. Jehan believes that dance provides an opportunity for people across communities and spaces to connect and express themselves.
Darryl is an assistant vice president for Empower Retirement, one of the largest financial services firms in the United States. He is also a member of the Speakers Bureau International as a professional speaker as well as a stand-up comedian with 30 years of experience. His entertainment resume includes being named Denver’s Funniest Comedian in 1994; an appearance on BET’s ComicView; along with performances with greats like Jamie Foxx, Steve Harvey, Damon Wayans, Dave Chappelle, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and the late Ray Charles.
Tyrone Gant, CTP, is a results oriented financial professional with 20+ years’ experience in the banking industry including sales management, business development and treasury management consulting. He leads the Treasury Sales group for Colorado Business Bank. Tyrone is a Denver native that is committed to the community. He currently serves as the Immediate Past President for the Rocky Mountain Association for Financial Professionals. Tyrone has also served on various youth sports organization boards.
Gwendolyn Brewer was born in Washington, D.C. She spent the majority of her early life traveling throughout the United State as her father’s career in the U.S. Army took the family to various army posts around the country and overseas. After graduating from high school in Okinawa, Japan, Gwen returned to the U.S. to attend college where she received a B.A. from the University of Connecticut and an M.A. from the University of Denver. Both degrees were in Speech/Language Pathology. Gwen is a high-energy educator with more than 20 years experience working in special education with preschool through high school students identified as having learning disabilities, speech/language disorders and social/behavioral problems. During her eighteen year tenure in Boulder Valley Public Schools, she was elected chairperson of the Speech/Language Department for 3 terms and supervised 14 speech/language specialists. Committed to her community and culture, Gwen is active in a variety of civic and social organizations. She presently serves on the board of directors of Mental Health America of Colorado. Gwen also serves on the board of directors of College Summit and is a Denver Associate of Jack & Jill of America, Inc. Gwen and her husband Moses live in Centennial, Colorado and are the parents of 2 grown children, Marques and Maya.
Community Relations Manager | Managing Director, Janus Foundation
As Managing Director of the Janus Foundation and Community Relations Manager for Janus Capital Group, Demesha serves as a champion for community engagement programs and provides leadership and strategic support for the corporate diversity and community outreach initiatives.
In her role, she actively develops corporate wide community employee engagement opportunities and fosters the 12 diversity & inclusion employee resource groups. Demesha invests time collaborating outside of Janus with non-profit organizations such as INROADS, Cherry Creek Chamber of Commerce, Junior Achievement and Out & Equal. She also serves on the Board of Directors for B:CIVIC (Business Committed to Investing & Volunteering in the Community) and is on the Advisory Council for Colorado Succeeds.
Prior to joining Janus in 2001, Demesha held multiple leadership roles in various industries. She earned a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Associate of Applied Science Degree in Paralegal and holds a Certificate in Corporate Citizenship Practice.
Matt is the President and the face of AOR, Agency Off Record. Matt is loved for his vast experience and contagious energy. Matt has the ability to throw fuel on the flames of passion, win new business, and delight current client partners. Because Matt is adept at cracking whips, he is able to lead the cultural and financial goals with a firm awareness of our market and competitive landscape. Matt has over 25 years of agency, sales, marketing, and client satisfaction experience. He holds a B.A. in Economics and French from Lake Forest College.
When Lisa Hogan helps a company avoid a legal problem, she considers it to be one of her best achievements. But, when litigation is necessary, she’s the strategic, creative attorney you want on your side. Few employment litigators in the country can match Lisa’s extensive trial experience and knowledge of how business issues play out in court. Lisa knows employment law both as outside counsel and from inside business. As the former Vice President of Litigation for Level 3 Communications, she managed all outside litigation and related analyses in connection with six strategic acquisitions. This work included managing commercial, employment, class action and environmental litigation throughout the United States. She also brings the perspective of having spent five years as a Denver Deputy District Attorney.
Lisa knows employment law both as outside counsel and from inside business. As the former Vice President of Litigation for Level 3 Communications, she managed all outside litigation and related analyses in connection with six strategic acquisitions. This work included managing commercial, employment, class action and environmental litigation throughout the United States. She also brings the perspective of having spent five years as a Denver Deputy District Attorney.
Her clients include various large regional companies in industries ranging from health care to aviation, energy and engineering/construction to food service, public utilities to telecommunications.
Lisa has taught courses in criminal law and ethics at Metropolitan State College and presents regularly on trial advocacy issues. She also serves as a faculty member of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) helping to develop and teach courses on trial techniques, strategy and practice management.
Deborah Herrera, SPHR, is the Human Resources Director for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. Ms. Herrera leads a Human Resources Division for 165 employees, and a team that consists of a HR Generalist and part-time Recruiter. In her role, Ms. Herrera has developed a leadership program framework to improve the leadership capabilities resulting in higher levels of leadership engagement and reduced employee relational issues. Providing one-on-one coaching for 33 members of leadership for his/her 360 degree assessments, Ms. Herrera has helped achieve cost savings of $49,000 due to established trust, objectivity, and professionalism as a valued business partner. Ms. Herrera leads the Diversity and Inclusion initiative resulting in a formation of an Inclusion Team and an organizational three year road map leading to increased employee engagement. Currently, she co-leads the strategic planning process using an inclusive process based on the balanced scorecard methodology and framework. Within three months, she created a strategy map, strategic objectives and key performance indicators to align with organizational budget and individual goal process. Ms. Herrera is a graduate of the University of North Florida and holds her M.S., Human Resources Management and B.S., Psychology.
Tony Price is Director of Campus Recreation at Auraria (CRA), and is responsible for managing a comprehensive fitness, leisure, and recreational services program provided to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, spouses, and guests of the Metropolitan State College of Denver, the University of Colorado at Denver, the Community College of Denver, and the Auraria Higher Education Center. With over 15 years experience as a Student Affairs professional providing co-curricular learning opportunities that support student persistence, success, and lifelong values, Mr. Price supervises and manages multiple indoor/outdoor recreational and athletic spaces specific to campus recreation. He leads a staff of four, full time professionals and close to 80 student employees. In addition to his primary responsibilities, Mr. Price has chaired the planning committee for the annual Martin Luther King Peace Breakfast, Diversity Leadership Conference, and the Graduation Ceremony for African and African American Students. Mr. Price received a Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Colorado, Boulder and received his Masters of Arts in Leisure and Sports Management with an emphasis in Athletic Administration from the University of Iowa.
Vice President, Community and Government Partnerships
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver
María Sepúlveda leads Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s advocacy program, collaborating with community and government partners in furtherance of the organization’s mission and vision. She manages the government grants and contracts team and is responsible for advancing Habitat’s community development strategy.
Sepúlveda’s work experience includes practicing law for Denver firms focusing on commercial litigation, serving as Staff Attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and serving as Vice President in Wells Fargo’s Commercial Real Estate and Community Relations divisions.
Sepúlveda received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder in International Affairs with an emphasis on Latin America and her Juris Doctorate from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C.
Sepúlveda currently serves as board member of Community Resources Housing Development Corporation and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, steering committee member of Mile High Connects, advisory committee member of Colorado Enterprise Fund and member of Barrio E’ Puerto Rican Music and
Robert Thompson is an experienced telecommunications professional who brings more than 20 years of experience in the industry. Robert joined Comcast in 2014 as the VP of Field Sales and then quickly moved into the role of VP of Sales and Sales Operations where he provided the coordination of the overall strategy as it pertains to sales forecasting, budgeting, business process improvement as well as sales support and leadership effectiveness, compensation management and program optimization. Prior to joining Comcast, Robert held various executive sales roles at Time Warner Telecom, Integra Telecom, NTT, and XO Communications. In his current role, Robert leads the overall as business strategy for the Mountain West Region serving as the Regional Vice President of Comcast Business with oversight of four markets: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona. Robert holds a BBA from Howard University.
J. Matt Thornton is an associate in the Litigation Group. Matt’s practice focuses on commercial litigation in both federal and state courts, including individual actions and class action defense, privacy and cybersecurity matters, product liability and mass tort, and disputes implicating the First Amendment.
Matt is involved in all aspects of his cases and prides himself in providing creative, business-oriented solutions for his clients. Among other things, Matt has extensive experience briefing dispositive motions, defending discovery disagreements, handling third-party discovery disputes, arguing substantive motions in court, preparing witnesses to give testimony, taking and defending depositions, negotiating individual and class action settlements, spearheading mediation, and maintaining clear, concise, and timely communications with clients.
Chief Operating Officer – American Red Cross of Colorado & Wyoming
Josett Valdez joined the American Red Cross in 2002 and over the last 14 years has had the opportunity to support each line of Humanitarian Services at the local and National Headquarters level. Josett recently joined the Red Cross of Colorado and Wyoming as the Chief Operating Officer in August of 2015. She also recently finished a stint as Interim Regional Chapter Executive Officer for the New Mexico Red Cross.
As Chief Operating Officer Josett is responsible for leading a team of four Executive Directors throughout Colorado and Wyoming. She leads the strategic direction for business operations, real estate and fleet management and ensures collaborative partnerships between internal and external stakeholders. In addition, she is responsible for the ongoing analysis, monitoring and forecasting for financial reports to ensure fiduciary responsibility.
Prior to that she was the Service to the Armed Forces Division Director for the Southwest and Rocky Mountain Division, where she oversaw policy and program development and strategic vision for nine states. She and her team worked to provide support to members of the military, veterans, and their families. Ms. Valdez Negley has responded to various national disasters as a training supervisor and has been an International Humanitarian Law instructor.
As a Colorado native, Ms. Valdez earned her master’s in Public Administration from the University of Colorado, School of Public Affairs in Denver and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
Alfred Aristotle Walker was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to Colorado to attend college on a track scholarship. He graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Al’s professional background is in the grocery business where he has worked in management for over 20 years with Safeway Inc. and now Kroger Inc. Al has been responsible for many multi-million dollar budgets in his career. He has extensive training in billing controls, salary management, employee training, controlling expenses, coaching/mentoring and providing strategic direction. Al is a member of the King Soopers/City Market African American Associate Resource group. This group offers support and progress to minority managers through engagement, mentoring and education. Al Walker is a husband, father, businessman, real estate investor and lover of sports, arts and culture in Colorado. Al resides in Aurora with his wife Melanie Walker and their two sons, Wyatt and Austin.
Shale Wong, MD, MSPH, is a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics and family medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, teaching child health, advocacy, policy and health care reform with focused interests in integrated care and achieving health equity. She is director of the Eugene S. Farley, Jr. Health Policy Center and Vice Chair for Policy and Advocacy in the Department of Pediatrics. Wong served as health policy advisor to First Lady Michelle Obama for development and implementation of her signature child obesity initiative, Let’s Move, and assisted in launching Joining Forces to improve wellness and resilience of military families. Additionally, she was a senior program consultant to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Wong continues to serve on several national and community boards. As a lifelong dancer, she is inspired to advance health through the arts.
Chief Communications Officer, Stanley Consultants
Jen leads the communications function for Stanley Consultants, a worldwide provider of program management, planning, engineering, and environmental services. She is responsible for elevating the company’s brand awareness, customer engagement practice, and digital platforms. Prior to joining Stanley Consultants, Jen spent thirteen years at Xcel Energy as a Director of both Strategic Communications and Marketing. Her professional experience spans several industries including financial services, retail grocery, office supplies, and sports management, with an ongoing focus on customer strategy and behavior. Jen also owns her own business – She’s A Rainbow LLC – designing, producing, and marketing handbags made from vinyl records.
Jen is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and an MBA in Marketing. She serves on the Board of Directors for Goodwill of Colorado and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. Jen was also a member of several non-profit boards in the Western New York area, and served as the President of the University at Buffalo Alumni Association from 2003-2005. She is the founder of a Denver alumni association chapter for her alma mater. Jen is a graduate of the Chamber 100, Impact Denver, and Leadership Denver (Class of 2011) programs through the Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation. She is also a graduate of the Leadership Ascent for Women. Jen is a member of the National Ski Patrol and is a finisher (twice!) in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. She lives in Denver with her husband and three stepchildren.
Podcast with Chris Carter and Cleo Parker Robinson, February 1, 2023. — Hi, everybody! This is Chris Carter, executive director at The Bankhead Theater, and today I am talking to Cleo Parker Robinson, the founder of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. And we’re very happy now to have Cleo with us today.Read More
Denver, Colo., January 27, 2023. — Inclusion and diversity is deeply embedded in the African Chamber of Commerce Colorado USA mantra. On Jan. 27, a Friday evening at Infinity Park Event Center, ACCCOUSA hosted its second annual business awards reception.Read More
Photos including the 31st Season of "Granny Dances To A Holiday Drum," celebrating holidays around the world. — By Denver Post photographer Helen RichardsonRead More
Denver Gazette, September 22, 2022 by John Moore — Over the past 52 years, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance has pulled off some remarkable collaborations, not only with local arts organizations but with groups from all over the world.
“Sacred Spaces” was like a human chain of sadness, celebration and resilience linking Denver in 1925 to Louisiana in 2019 – bookends of a seemingly never-ending series of Black church burnings in America that began exactly 200 years ago in Charleston, S.C.Read More
CBS4 Denver, KCNC TV, September 17, 2022; detailed report by Audra Streetman and Mekialaya White — Three predominately Black churches in Louisiana were set on fire in 2019. In 1925, Shorter A.M.E. Church in Denver's Five Points Neighborhood was burned to the ground allegedly by the KKK.
The 2019 church fires, as well as, the Shorter Church building's history with fire, inspired the new dance collaboration "Sacred Spaces?".Read More
Country Roads Magazine, August 22, 2022, by Jordan LaHaye Fontenot — “Pastor, the church is gone,” were the words coming through Kyle Sylvester’s phone at 2:30 am on March 27, 2019.
“What did you say?”Read More