DENVER — Now that the curtains have once again opened for live performances, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble is taking the stage again for it's 51st anniversary. For two nights—September 25 and 26—"Journeys" is a 90-minute performance that includes four major works and spoken word. "Freedom Dance," one of the major works, includes music by and a live performance from Denver’s Grammy Award-winning jazz icon, Dianne Reeves.“Four Journeys” examines the intersection of African, Asian, Spanish, and Indigenous culture in Mexico.
“People want to expand. They want to know,” said Cleo Parker Robinson, the founder and artistic director of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. “We're hungry, and we haven't been able to travel around the world right now. So I think that they'll feel they're in this global journey but the journey is for everyone...I think it’s a magical, powerful journey.”
'Journeys': Performance explores diverse paths traveled
Cleo Parker Robinson dance studio celebrates 51st season with a collaboration of greats.
Two years in the making, "Four Journeys" features choreography from Maestra Amalia Viviana Basanta Hernández, the artistic director for Mexico City-based Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. The storyline for her ballet focuses on the life of Mexican Saint Catarina de San Juan, also known as China Poblana, a woman who was captured in India, enslaved, and brought to Mexico during the 17th century.
Using multimedia elements—including a projection by Taketo Kobayashi—the dance follows Catarina de San Juan as she encounters and responds to different cultures from India to Mexico. In addition to expansive storytelling, the performance—which also features spoken word—aims to celebrate what makes Mexico so unique, from language to traditional dress.
“One of the things that I really believe is that culture was the best things that happens in the pandemic because it put us together, even on the other side of the world,” Basanta Hernández said. She told Rocky Mountain PBS that hearing music from all over the world and languages from different cultures helps keep us connected and keep the culture of each place alive. “[The performance] is talking about the culture and the union of cultures is [becoming] stronger everyday.”
By blending dance, music, and language from different cultures, the colorful performance seeks to take the audience on a journey through history, concluding in reflection and an appreciation for Mexico’s traditions and artistic influences.
“We’re sharing in some of the tragedies of what’s going on and we get to then help each other through it,” Robinson said. “I think that’s the other part: the arts are healing. And so it's not just discovering how wonderful it is but how do we heal.”
The other two works a part of "Journeys" include "Standing On The Shoulders" with music from Omar Thomas and "Fusion" by Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus.
“Journeys” premieres at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House tonight, September 25 and tomorrow, September 26. You can purchase tickets here.
Brian Willie is the Content Production Manager with Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.