The exuberant and delightful celebrity is a hero to many people whose lives she has genuinely touched with her guidance and leadership. A friend described Cleo as “a beautiful peacock full of color and elegance - with a wise, compassionate soul.”
Parker-Robinson was an extraordinary achiever from day one. People who went to high school with her at George Washington H.S. knew that Cleo was born under a blessed star and – with her clear vision – she was destined for success. She taught dance all through high school and had already started her dance ensemble before she even finished college. Cleo perfected her many skills, and then didn’t let anything hold her back.
Today, she is a master teacher/choreographer and cultural ambassador who has taught and performed with her troupe in places all over the world such as Iceland, Singapore, Hawaii, Nassau, Belize, Israel, throughout Africa - including Egypt, Turkey and throughout Europe. People of all ages and backgrounds have participated in Ms. Parker Robinson’s workshops and master classes at conservatories, universities and neighborhood dance centers around the globe.
Cleo Parker Robinson Dance now celebrates their internationally renowned Ensemble, with a year-round dance school, an in-school lecture/demonstration series, an international summer dance institute, a three-hundred seat theatre and an outreach program for “at-promise youth” called the AYE Program. AYE provides the arts to at-promise youth in Denver as an alternative to gang activity, peer pressure and substance abuse.
Cleo’s philosophy of “One Spirit – Many Voices” is reflected in all that she does. Her accomplishments, awards and long list of collaborations were built on unwavering values and a belief in herself and in the many people she has embraced.
Ms. Parker Robinson has helped open the doors for many other women and has laid a foundation for generations to come. Cleo, with all that you have achieved, it’s an honor to pay homage to you and say: “You are our queen of hearts!”
How old were you when you knew you just had to dance? At the age of five, I was already dancing everywhere - in the house, in the yard, everywhere! My parents knew even then I would be a dancer - it was in my soul!!
You have been involved with so many charitable organizations, what charitable event(s) do you most look forward to attending each year? This year, the Huntington's Disease Celebration of Hope Gala “Monte Carlo Nights” on August 23rd (Cleo is the “Hope Award” recipient). And of course, my own Gala on October 6th.
Right now you have a full calendar of events that you are personally involved in; can you give us an update of what they are between now and the end of the year? We begin our 37th Anniversary Season this year, with our Fall Concert at the Newman Center in September, and of course our wonderful holiday production in December of "Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum".
Cleo, I remember hearing about you when I was in high school from several of my friends who attended George Washington H.S. with you. So much has changed since those days. What stands out as something that has changed the most since the fabulous 60’s? I am so amazed, and moved by the power of our young people - their continued commitment to social consciousness, their belief in the power of the people to make change for the better - they have the same idealism we had in the 60’s, but are even better prepared now with knowledge and skills to realistically effect change.
How could we as a community do a better job at instilling the right values and ethics in our kids today? By becoming ACTIVELY INVOLVED in the lives of our young people - rather than being judgmental of trends such as hip hop and rap, we need to spend some time - take some hip hop classes with our kids - listen to and read their poetry and raps - LISTEN TO WHAT THEY ARE SAYING with their music, their dance, etc - create dialogue - involve ourselves in community outreach. We at Cleo Parker Robinson Dance do extensive community outreach work with programs such as our SOS (Season of Schools) and our AYE After School Arts / Math Literacy program.
What advice would you personally offer a young woman in high school today? Talk to as many diverse people as you can - allow them to mentor you - travel as much as possible - experience the diversity of life in all of it's aspects - cultural, artistic, and spiritual. Listen to your own inner voice and spend time nurturing your spiritual center.
Who is the most interesting person you have ever met? Our great African American poet, Dr. Maya Angelou.
Who do you consider your mentor? Dance legend and humanitarian, Katherine Dunham, and of course, my own honored mother and father, Martha Parker and Jonathan "JP" Parker.
What’s the best book you have ever read? Dr. Angelou's immortal work "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings".
What magazine can’t you live without? Ebony
What is the happiest experience you have ever had? Raising my extraordinary son Malik.
What is the saddest? Losing my darling mama to cancer - and recently being in hospital in intense pain and being so unable to do what I love most in the world - DANCE. But, my body is healing nicely, and it won't be long before I am again living the dream.
What is something no one knows about you? I am working on a book!!
If your life were made into a movie, who would you want to play you? It would have been wonderful to have had Lena Horne - what an incredible woman and artist. But now, I would be honored if there were a brilliant young actress, perhaps even unknown, who has been inspired by my life journey, who would consider bringing my story to film.
Who would you like to trade places with for just one day? My life is too wonderful to ever want to trade even one day!!
If you could turn invisible, what’s the first thing you might want to do? If I could be an invisible angel, my wish would be to touch the arm of my beautiful dancer and sister-friend of 35 years, and restore the sight she lost two years ago.
Describe your dream romantic get-away? Hiding away with my handsome husband of 38 years in the islands of Hawaii - I love Hawaii so much - the sand, the sea, and the majesty of the volcanoes!
What’s the best advice someone has ever given you? I'm still working on that one - I have been mentored, guided, and advised by so many wonderful teachers - it would be impossible to isolate just one.
What’s something you would still like to learn to do or accomplish? Write books on self-improvement, help others move forward in their own journeys by learning from my own life’s journey.
What would you most like to be remembered for? Making a difference to the Earth Village - moving us in the direction of peace - I have said that "dance is just life out loud," and I do truly believe that it is the arts that will move us forward to a deeper understanding of love, and compassion for all - regardless of age, gender, race, culture, or spiritual belief.
Cleo Parker Robinson’s Awards & Recognitions : A partial listing: In 1974, Ms. Robinson received the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts, and in 1979, the Mayor's Award. In 1989, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Ms. Robinson has been recognized in Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, and in 1986 received the prestigious Thelma Hill Center for the Performing Arts Award (New York City) for outstanding achievement in the world of dance. Recently, her organization was honored as the Woman Owned Business of the Year by Colorado Business and Professional Women; she was honored with the lifetime achievement award from the Business and Professional Women-Aurora Chapter; and she received the “Oni Award” from the International Black Woman's Congress, recognizing her as someone who protects, defends, and enhances the general well being of African people. In September of 2004, Ms. Robinson was nominated for an award from Black Theatre Alliance Awards, Inc. for Best Choreography in a Music/Dance Program for her ballet “Evocation of Memory” set on the Muntu Dance Company of Chicago.
Ms. Robinson received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Denver in June 1991; in 1992, she was chosen to be one of the Colorado 100; and in February 1994, she was inducted into the Blacks in Colorado Hall of Fame. In May of 2003, Ms. Robinson received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Colorado College. In November of 1997, Ms. Robinson was chosen, along with four other "Living Legends", to participate in the project: Dance Women/Living Legends. Ms. Robinson serves as the 1st Vice President of the International Association of Blacks in Dance (IABD). In 1984, Ms. Robinson joined the board of trustees for the DCPA and in 1998, her organization became an affiliate. In April 2005, Ms. Parker Robinson was a recipient of a Kennedy Center Medal of Honor during the Center’s “Masters of African American Choreography” series.
In July of 2005, Ms. Parker Robinson received the King M. Trimble Community Award for service to the Denver community. Most recently, Ms. Robinson has been the recipient of the first “Peaceful Heart Award” from Mile-Hi Church, and has been honored by the Colorado Gospel Hall of Fame, and the Metro State College Plain & Fancy Ball. In May 2006, she received the “Jill” Award from the South Suburban Denver Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, Inc., honoring her work with young people. In October 2006, Ms. Parker Robinson was honored as a “Pioneer in Black Dance” by the Dynamic Dance Festival in Atlanta, Georgia.