Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble Gives ADF Rooftop Performance

The American Dance Festival will present the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble at 2 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3 at the RJ Reynolds Industries Theater at Duke University (photo © Jerry Metellus)

Classics are works of art that stand up to the scrutiny of each new generation and, in doing so, lay the groundwork for the future. Cleo Parker Robinson understands that delicate mesh of old and new, and last night she brought that knowledge with a booty-shaking swagger to the American Dance Festival to RJ Reynolds Industries Theater on Duke University’s West Campus in Durham, North Carolina, for the first of three performances July 2-3.

Fans in the audience for Tuesday July 2, opening night of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble were entitled to a representation of Cleo Parker Robinson se. The 70-year-old dance genius brought his passion and talent to his version of The barrel bluesa signature dance created by the legendary Catherine Dunham (1909-2006).

This sultry, smoky work made its world premiere in 1938, introducing Florida’s “swamp house shimmy” to the world of dance. The main character, played by Robinson, is a tired woman who goes out dancing, regaining her youth and sensuality by shaking the folds of her body with her partner (Martez McKinzy).

Robinson and McKinzy slip and turn and create a kind of nuptial dance that is both narrative and comedic. Robinson’s wide-eyed connection with the audience and his sidelong glances at his young partner elicit boos and hollers from the audience.

That’s all she had to do. She owned the audience.

But the evening was far from over. The rest of the night belonged to the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, a troupe of extraordinarily talented contemporary dancers who are powerful, fast, sharp and thrilling to watch. In Catharsis (choreographed and created in 2017 by Garfield Lemoniuswhom Robinson describes as “young and bright”) and Resist (a ADF-world premiere commissioned by a new “hot” choreographer, Micaela Taylor), dancers move in and out of solos, duets, and group dances without pause or time to catch their breath. Their accuracy is phenomenal; and when they are all rewarded with a very long standing ovation after Catharsis, that’s the biggest compliment, because it’s a hardcore dance audience. They deserved this recognition.

With a strong troupe like this, it’s almost impossible to choose dancers who could be stars, because they’re all focused and at the top of their game; but sometimes a performance takes your breath away like At Tyveze Littlejohn Heartbreakingly beautiful solo in mourning benchoriginally choreographed by Talley Beatty and premiered in 1947. Littlejohn’s control and balance create poetic, sculptural movements that are slow and painful, yet beautiful to watch.

The evening ended with Uprooted: Pero Replantadochoreographed by Donald McKayle and premiered in 2015. The Dance, a story of undocumented immigrants in the United States, is poignant and important, especially when compared to today’s headlines. A relevant and moving sequence of five dances, the work uses all the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in a finale that highlights their beautiful synchronicity, and the genius of their director.

An icon in the world of dance, Cleo Parker Robinson not only teaches and choreographs, but runs a school, a summer institute, has a theater named after him, and offers an extensive outreach program for deserving Denver and Front Range communities. She won’t be dancing in today’s matinee performance, but she will be dancing in tonight’s performance. Robinson is the driving force behind this phenomenal group of dance stars, and it’s well worth trying to get tickets to this very special show. ADF performance.

The American Dance Festival will present the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble at 2 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, July 3 at the RJ Reynolds Industries Theater at Duke University (photo © Jerry Metellus)

SECOND OPINION: June 26 Durham, North Carolina Indian week mini preview Byron’s Wood:

the American Dance Festival present CLEO PARKER ROBINSON DANCE SET at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on July 3 at RJ Reynolds Industries Theater at the Bryan Center, 125 Science Dr., Durham, NC 27708, on Duke University’s West Campus.

TICKETS: $12 – $43.

BOX OFFICE: Duke University Box Office: 919-684-4444, [email protected], or






BLOG (ADF Blog):



Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble (modern dance company, founded in 1970 and rooted in Afro-American traditions): (official site), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), (Wikipedia), and (Youtube).

Cleo Parker Robinson (Denver, dancer and choreographer born in the CO and founder and artistic director of the CPRDE): (organic CPRDE), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

REMARK: Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The parade of mourning, as well as other novels, children’s books, non-fiction books, essays, short stories, poems and articles. She is the creator of Writer’s Hand Diaries and organizes workshops on the use of newspapers in all areas of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds a Masters in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpellier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley Triangle review online reviews on Triangle Arts and Showsclick on

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