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US dance academy performs at Takitimu Festival

PRESS RELEASE Thursday, September 1, 2011

US dance academy performs at Takitimu Festival

An international dance company dedicated to African-American traditions will give New Zealand audiences a sneak preview of its latest production, ahead of its US viewers, at the Takitimu Festival in Hawke’s Bay this month.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance is based in Colorado and is a cross-cultural, dance arts and educational institution and it will make its New Zealand debut at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House in Hastings during the five-day festival.

The group’s Kiwi connection came a few years ago when it hosted teachers from the Hastings-based Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre at its International Summer Dance Institute.

Director of Operations Mary Hart says the group is thrilled about its first New Zealand tour.

“The Ensemble has toured internationally in years past but the political and economic circumstances in recent years have made that more difficult, needless to say we are delighted to be back on the international stage.”

The group was also the first American company to be invited to perform at the Takitimu Festival.

“Not only will we have the opportunity to share our company's signature work, Raindance, but also we are giving people the very first look at a new choreographic work by Cleo Parker Robinson called Dreamcatchers, The Untold Stories of the Americas.

“Our New Zealand audience will see excerpts of this new work, even before our US audiences. We have also been given the opportunity of collaborating with Kahurangi Maori Dance Theatre to create a unique piece in celebration of the harvest season.

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“We believe this is the first time such a unique, on-site, creation and performance will have ever taken place between our two cultures,” Hart said.

Raindance has been performed around the world in a range of settings from the open air of a Masai village in Africa to some of the most magnificent performance venues of Europe and the US.

“The piece was created for us 25 years ago and is a celebration of the universal connection of all peoples to the elements of earth, sky and rain,” Hart said.

Dreamcatchers, The Untold Stories of the Americas is a production which marks the unheard stories of indigenous, brown and black people in America.

It was created by the company’s founder, Cleo Parker Robinson, and aims to put some balance into the often misrepresented views in literature and film on the “true richness and diversity of the history of the Americas”.

Robinson will bring nine members of the group to New Zealand, they arrive on September 10 to begin their work with Kahurangi for their performance on September 18.

While in New Zealand, the group will offer workshops with the community and hopefully have time to “saturate ourselves in the beauty of the terrain and the culture of New Zealand and its varied peoples”.

“All of us with Cleo Parker Robinson Dance hold to the hope that this will be only the first step to building bridges of art and cultural education between the United States and New Zealand,” Hart said.

“We are proud to be ambassadors for that relationship and hope it will continue to become even more vital in years to come.”

EXTRA NOTES: Cleo Parker Robinson is the founder, artistic director and choreographer of Cleo Parker Robinson Dance. She is a native of Denver and a graduate of the University of Denver, in the field of Dance, Education and Psychology.

She began teaching college level dance at 15 at the University of Colorado, taught dance throughout high school and started her own company by the time she graduated university. Robinson’s most influential mentors were Rita Berger, a former dancer with George Balanchine and soloist with the Metropolitan Opera, and the legendary choreographer and humanitarian Katherine Dunham. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance is now 36 years old with its internationally renowned Ensemble, a year-round dance school, an in-school lecture/demonstration series, an international summer dance institute, a three-hundred seat theatre. It also has an outreach programme for youth in Denver to provide the arts as an alternative to gang activity, peer pressure and substance abuse


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