Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD), newly returned from the 90th Anniversary Summer Dance Festival at the iconic Jacob’s Pillow, step turns toward their Fall Concert and World Premiere Sacred Spaces? Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Fall Concert September 17 • 7:30 p.m. + September 18 • 2 p.m. Ellie Caulkins Opera House Featuring a World Premiere collaboration with Adonis Rose and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra!
This large-scale production explores sacred spaces in unique collaboration celebrating dance, community, resilience, healing, and Jazz. The African Diaspora provides a subtext for each work from the Afro-Brazilian Orisha energy of Rosangela Silvestre’s Temple In Motion, to the moving meditation of Winifred R. Harris’ choreography in Dépouillé (Bare). The World Premiere of Sacred Spaces?, the latest modern ballet masterwork by Cleo Parker Robinson, links a shared history between Denver and St. Landry Parish, La., confronting the loss of four communities’ sacred spaces through church arson in 1925 and 2019. Parker Robinson’s choreography will be accompanied with an original new composition by 2009 Grammy Award winner Adonis Rose, Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, who will be performing live!
$25 for Balcony, $50 for Loge, $75 for Mezzanine, $100 for Parterre, and $125 for Orchestra seating.
In 2019, Jacqueline (Jackie) Lyle, Executive Director of Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA) approached Denver’s Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, known for artivism (social justice art activism) in her research to help heal the community she serves. “The burning of the churches in St. Landry Parish compelled me to take some sort of action, which resulted in this an examination, from the stage, of acts of violence against houses of worship, reconciliation and redemption,” says Jacqueline Lyle, executive director of Performing Arts Serving Acadiana (PASA). “Thankfully, Cleo Parker Robinson and Adonis Rose, Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, accepted the challenge. Equally important, the pastors and congregations of St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church were willing to open their hearts to the artistic team.”
In June 2022, Cleo Parker Robinson (CPRD) and Adonis Rose (Grammy Award winning composer and Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra [NOJO]) visited St. Landry Parish with Winifred Harris, Associate Artistic Director of CPRD, Malik Robinson, CPRD Executive Director, and Micah Bursh, a new member to the CPRD Marketing Team who is native to the state and attended University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Beyond basic fact finding, those visits began a deeper conversation with church members who lost their sacred spaces to a single arsonist (convicted; now in Federal prison). These conversations helped Parker Robinson and Rose develop a connection in understanding the 2019 loss and reflect on the Shorter AME church community’s loss in 1925. All of these physical, social, emotional, and spiritual elements will take shape in the music and performance of Sacred Spaces?
“It’s about healing,” Cleo Parker Robinson, Founder and Artistic Director of CPRD, explains. “It’s extraordinary to think about, ‘how do people heal?’ We are all hurting, even if we didn’t come from that community … How do we, as a society, heal?” she posed. In describing the process of healing, acknowledgement is a significant factor. “We heal because people collectively wish it for you. And I think that’s what happens when we create something like this, and bring it to the audience,” she said.
For New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s Artistic Director Adonis Rose—who has worked with some of jazz’s biggest names and performed on many of the world’s most prominent stages—Sacred Spaces? ventures into new territory. This is the first time the Grammy-award winning composer has written music for dancers—though he says it will not be his last. Rose describes his approach to the music as an effort to bring together elements of Louisiana, of spirituality, of the African American church, and of mourning. “I had to sit down and think about how I wanted to structure it to where it followed the narrative of the story,” he said. “So I started at the beginning, at the very beginning, and tried to put myself in the shoes of the guy who was burning the churches, and then also try to put myself in the position, emotionally, of the people of the congregations were when it was happening.”
“We often invoke our ancestors, because our work honors their survival, and our existence because of it,” explains Malik Robinson, Executive Director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. The only son of Parker Robinson, his entire life has been connected to the social justice art/activism developed by his mother and the community of artists who co-founded CPRD, along with his parents. (Tom Robinson, his father and Parker Robinson’s husband, transitioned in April 2022.)“According to a 2015 report from the National Fire Protection Association, roughly five fires were intentionally set in religious institutions per week during the period of 2007 to 2011. I am another generation in a lineage stretching more than 400 years who is working for justice. We do indeed witness progress after the 1996 Federal Church Arson Prevention Act quelled a previously greater number of crimes against people and their sacred spaces,” he said.
One community reaching out to another for healing in art and activism; each share the tragedy of church arson destroy their sacred spaces
What was the genesis of Sacred Spaces? Country Roads Magazine in Louisiana shares a tragic story, and a path to healing. The home of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance was once the oldest Black Church in Denver: Shorter AME Church; it was burned April 9, 1925. Three churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana were burned March 27, April 2, and April 4, 2019.
“The body absorbs messages through symbols, becoming the source where language comes out and symbolizes the freedom to express its voice the movement.”— Rosangela Silvestre, Choreographer
Ms. Silvestre is a choreographer, teacher and dancer. She was born in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and has developed a contemporary Brazilian dance technique called The Silvestre Technique. She received a Masters Degree in dance from the where she studied with Professor King, Mercedes Batista and Clyde Morgan; her training includes Martha Graham, Floor Bar, Limon and Classical Ballet. Since she began to develop her technique, invitations have come forth to participate in many festivals and conferences. Silvestre has worked with Steve Coleman (BMG label) and Mystic Rhythm Society, European, Indian, Egyptian, and tours; served as an instructor at the Colorado Dance Festival, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance International Summer Dance Institute, the American Academy of Ballet at Vassar College, Alvin Ailey School of Dance and the New York University Symposium on Brazilian Dance.
“It’s abstract, out there, and puts you on the edge,” said Cleo Parker Robinson in a 2003 interview with The Aspen Times. “[Silvestre] created this powerful energy that comes from an on-the-edge experience. She gets to a nonreligion and gets that the real religion is in the spirit within us.” “Temple In Motion,” added Robinson, is as much about the physical as about the spiritual: “The `Temple’ is the body, and she does it like mad. It’s hot.”
Dépouillé (Bare), “A moving meditation, paying homage to the consistent steadiness that recognizes the connection to our greater being. Through triumphs and chaos, we move bare and baring ourselves to our ever-evolving lives.”
Winifred Harris is the Associate Artistic Director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, and an alumna of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble. A choreographer, artist, teacher, and community activist, Ms. Harris has created a significant body of work with a strong balance of technical prowess and gestural expression. Having trained under Cleo Parker Robinson, she danced professionally for ten years with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble before moving on to Dallas Black Dance Theater and a solo stint in New York and abroad. In October 1991, she relocated to Los Angeles, Calif., founding her own award-nominated contemporary modern dance company. In recognition of her dedication and commitment to underprivileged youth, Ms. Harris received several awards from the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles for her teaching efforts within that community. Having served on faculty at various universities and studios nationwide, including Cal Arts (her alma mater), Cal State Los Angeles and Spelman College, she returned to Cleo Parker Robinson Dance in 2010 as Ensemble Rehearsal Director and became Associate Artistic Director in 2014. A number of her innovative works are part of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble’s repertoire.
Adonis Rose describes the six movements of music he composed, for the first time, for dance:
Closing the work using the Second Line, NOJO brings their signature performance tradition to a Cleo Parker Robinson Dance work for a truly uplifting experience.
2009 Grammy Award Winner – Best Large Ensemble Director
Founding Member Drumset – New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO)
Adonis Rose is a Grammy-award winning artist, composer, educator, and producer from the city of New Orleans, LA. He has played and recorded with the biggest names in Jazz, including Terence Blanchard, Betty Carter, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Roberts, Harry Connick, Jr., and Wynton Marsalis, and has performed on the most renowned stages in the world such as Carnegie Hall, Olympia in Paris, North Sea Jazz Festival, Umbria, Birdland, Apollo Theater, Newport Jazz Festival, and Jazz at Lincoln Center, to name a few. Rose has over fifty recordings to his credit (five as a leader), including six with longtime friend, trumpeter Nicholas Payton.
In 2010, he won a Grammy Award with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra for Best Large Ensemble. In January 2017, Rose was named the Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) and led the eighteen-piece orchestra to its first concert season in October of that year that featured world-renowned artists Sheila E, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ledisi, Slick Rick, and Eric Benet. He has been instrumental in the organization’s success by developing educational and community programs, leading performances, and developing partnerships associated with The Jazz Market, a 350-seat performance venue in New Orleans’ Central City neighborhood which is home to the orchestra. Prior to his role at NOJO, Rose served as the Artist in Residence at the University of Texas Arlington and Cadillac’s Jazz by the Boulevard Festival, produced the Keller Jazz in June series, and founded the Fort Worth Jazz Orchestra, a 501c(3) non-profit organization.
The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) was formed in 2002 and was designed to celebrate and fortify the American Jazz portfolio while providing infrastructure for developing the New Orleans Jazz industry. Led by Artistic Director Adonis Rose, this 20-piece big band has an ever-increasing repertoire that exemplifies the influence of Jazz as the grandfather of all modern American music. As such, the band and its members are true Ambassadors of American Music. The members of the orchestra span several generations and have over one hundred years of combined professional experience. They have performed and recorded with a veritable who’s who of artists across all genres.
NOJO has headlined all of America’s major performing arts venues and clubs and produced the first local, ticketed Jazz Concert Series in New Orleans’ history. NOJO’s album, BOOK ONE released on World Village (Harmonia Mundi) won the 2010 Grammy Award for “Best Large Jazz Ensemble.” Their album that followed, Dee Dee’s Feather’s, was released in 2015, and features Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater. On their 2018 release, Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint(Storyville 2019), NOJO takes a look into the mind and music of New Orleans’ piano legend Allen Toussaint, whose music has influenced generations spanning more than fifty years. In their inimitable swinging style, the Orchestra performs original Big Band arrangements of Toussaint’ greatest hits including “Southern Nights,” “With You In Mind,” “It’s Raining,” “Ruler of My Heart,” “Java,” and “Working in the CoalMine.” The recording features Dee Dee Bridgewater and several other special guests.
Their upcoming release, Petite Fleur, tells the beautiful love story between France and the City of NewOrleans. Adonis Rose and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and featured vocalist Cyrille Aimee come together to create a recording that exemplifies the cultural sophistication and collaboration between artists from different parts of the world sharing similar musical experiences. The album features classic songs “Petite Fleur,” “Si Tu Savais,” and “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life,” along with original compositions. This recording takes the listener on a musical journey filled with love, history, and inspiration.For more information, please visit www.thenojo.com
Millicent Johnnie, Choreographer
Artistic Collaborator, “Sacred Spaces?” with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
This is Millicent Johnnie’s third collaboration with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.
A child of South Louisiana and daughter of dance, Ms. Johnnie follows in the footsteps of her immediate ancestors and dance heroines. Her father, Donald Briggs, a zydeco and blues musician, toured with Bobby Bland and Buckwheat Zydeco. Her mother, Geneva Johnnie, Louisiana History teacher and historian, placed the biographies of Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey within her reach. Her grandmother, Alma Briggs, was a Zydeco dance queen who took her last breath on the dance floor.
As a teenager, Johnnie hosted a local social justice TV show met by protests from the KKK; she traces her professional determination and commitment to social issues in Black culture to this early opposition. She was a teaching artist with the Performing Arts Society of Acadiana (PASA) and after two seasons there, became an instructor with Universal Dance Association. While in New Orleans, she served on the faculties at Tulane University and Dillard University before signing a commercial dance contract with the Bloc South talent agency.
As a two-time United States Artists nominee in dance, former Associate Artistic Director of Urban Bush Women with choreography featured on ESPN, the Prince William Network and Sunshine Networks, Johnnie worked A&R through Marvelous Enterprises, bringing her diverse experiences in theater and dance into the music industry. After choreographing Broadway-bound “Thoughts of a Colored Man”, produced by Syracuse Stage and Baltimore Center Stage, she received her MFA in film, specializing in producing and story development. In collaboration with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, her NEFA National Dance Project “Bamboula: Musicians’ Brew” inspired her short film “Bamboula is Not Bamboozled” and with significant support from the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago, she developed and produced “La DiaBlesse Curse”; both toured the film festival circuit in South Africa, Trinidad, and Tobago. Her hybrid concert film, “Pulling Back the Curtain”, released in 2020, exposed the Ballet world’s fragility and reckoning with the intersection of COVID-19 and systemic oppression. She is also known for her choreography in the major motion picture “Scary Movie 5” and is currently in post-production for her feature “Ma Negresse” featuring Grammy nominated fiddle player, Cedric Watson.
Ms. Johnnie’s kinesthetic language is robust; a patois of African, American, and European ideals— from classical African dance to European classical forms, hip hop and folk. The infinite variation she offers through the work she creates or performs whether for large scale stage productions like Disney’s “Frozen: Live at the Hyperion” and operas like “Parable of the Sower”, in academia, for commercial film and television such as the National Basketball Association and the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games/ Rio2016, or for world- renowned ensembles like Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, is layered with soul, intellectual rigor and curiosity, scholarship and grace.
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