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Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble's twenty-fifth anniversary gala performance, "Celebrations and Collaborations" lauded the choreographer's artistic vision and service to the community while offering a mesmerizing cross section of African American choreography. The printed program's list of dancemakers represented in the repertoire reads like a Who's Who in black modern dance: Donald McKayle, Eleo Pomare, David Rousseve, Chuck Davis, Talley Beatty, and the legendary Katherine Dunham, among others.

Like few other dance companies, this troupe has the amazing ability to inhabit an array of styles and techniques, all of which are marked by pervasive joy flirting with abandon. Beatty's Ellingtonia and Milton Myers's Raindance provided the evening's greatest study in contrast.

The former opens with a line of dancers silhouetted against a bright blue night sky, shucking and jiving, pointing at each other, all jutting arms and tilting heads and attitude. Though created in 1994, Ellingtonia has a clear style and theatricality that recalls an earlier, jazzier time.

Raindance (1 984), the company's signature work, embodies a language all its own. Much of the movement is out of kilter, with dancers hinging away from or falling off center, pushing through space with flexed hands and feet. Their arms, whether jutted akimbo or held curved, scoop and slice the air. With the dancers of both sexes clad in floor-length red circle skirts, Myers's jerky, angular movement becomes stunning.

The ensemble beautifully embodied the sensual world of McKayle's 1952 Nocturne, their hips loosely gyrating, their shoulders rolling atop torsos repeating sharp, deep contractions. At the end, several couples entwined in pools of light on the floor as one lone woman slipped away.

The evening's highlight was Dunham's Barrelhouse Blues (1 943), introduced by the choreographer herself, who was honored at the event. Robinson, in cloche and flapper dress, all long legs and big baby-doll eyes, danced a deadpan duet opposite a lusting Germaul Barnes. Feigning indifference throughout, yet oozing desire, she shimmied up to him, while Barnes, smoldering, hinged back into a deep, seemingly endless Second Position plie. Robinson's immense presence and flawless technique, coupled with Barnes's slow burn, brought down the house.

The 2,500-seat Buell Theatre was filled to capacity - a tribute both to Robinson's standing in the regional and national dance scene and to her role as a highly respected civic leader with tremendous political, corporate, and social support.
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Title Annotation:Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, Denver, Colorado
Author:Gastineau, Janine
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jan 1, 1996
Words:390
Previous Article:Hannah Kahn Dance Company.
Next Article:Ralph Lemon Company.
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