For 25 years, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in Denver has been blending dance, live music, spoken word and seasonal celebrations from around the world into a single holiday tradition.
It’s called “Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum,” and it features performances that reflect a wide diversity of cultures.
The story revolves around “Granny,” whose memories are gifts to those she loves. In her youth, she danced in winter festivals honoring the birth of Christ, the African harvest, the Native American winter solstice, the Celtic yule time, Las Posadas in Mexico, Kwanzaa in the United States, the ancient Hebrew festival of lights, the Chinese New Year, and the Caribbean’s Junkanoo Day. Now Granny seeks to relive these memories of rich cultural traditions, bringing them alive again for her grandchildren TiSean and Nakia.
In many ways, “Granny” is a reflection of Cleo Parker Robinson, the choreographer who founded the dance troupe 46 years ago and has performed around the world. Her dance company consists of 11 professional dancers and an education program that has served more than a half million children in the Denver metro area. Those students come from all different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. And Parker Robinson says the takeaway of “Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum” is to embrace those differences.
“Our experience in diversity is to really live it everyday. And to have our village filled with people of all backgrounds and every religion every day.”
This segment originally aired on Rocky Mountain PBS. The reporter is Cynthia Hessin, Jennifer Castor was the videographer and editor. “Local Beat” is published every Tuesday and features stories from public television and radio stations across the country.