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Cleo Parker Robinson residency

University dancers join FSCJ, ESJ for modern dance concert

Dancers from Jacksonville University Linda Barry Stein College of Fine Arts, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) Dance Department and Episcopal School of Jacksonville (ESJ) Fine Arts will present an evening of modern dance by the critically acclaimed Cleo Parker Robinson Dance (CPRD) of Denver, Colo. 

The Spring Dance Concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Nathan H. Wilson Center for the Arts on FSCJ’s South Campus, 11901 Beach Blvd. Tickets cost $10 for general admission and are free for ESJ students with prior reservation. Call (904) 646-2222 to purchase tickets.

The show is a culmination of a year-long collaborative project that included choreographer and CPRD founder and artistic director Cleo Parker Robinson’s three-week residency at Jacksonville University last October.

Cleo Parker Robinson speaks with students

During the residency, Ms. Parker Robinson came to set her piece “Check Cashing Day” on students from Jacksonville University, FSCJ and ESJ. The piece uses excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to deliver a powerful statement about the Civil Rights Era. Created in tribute to the rich jazz history of Kansas City and the music of Bobby Watson, Bettye Miller and Milt Abel, the work honors each generation’s voice, speaking the truth of the struggle for equality and justice through the power of music, dance and spoken word. The students begin the piece by singing, “We Shall Overcome, today.”  

“Even 50 years after Dr. King spoke of the importance of jazz in his opening address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, we are reminded that the struggle has been paid for, time and time again, and that it’s up to each generation to make the dream a reality,” said Ms. Parker Robinson.

Dancers will also perform the piece during Jacksonville University’s Spring Dance Concert in April.

Cleo Parker Robinson supports students

Morgan Brown, an instructor of dance with FSCJ who was a soloist with CPRD throughout the 1990s, helped initiate the collaborative project.  

“Cleo’s work means so much to me, but so does her generosity and dedication to the history of American Modern Dance,” said Morgan Brown. “Having her come to Jacksonville to work with our students was a life-changing event for them, and to have her professional company return to share the stage with our students during Black History Month is incredibly meaningful.”  

Ms. Parker Robinson is dedicated to celebrating the human experience and potential through the arts and education. Her life-long vision of “One Spirit, Many Voices” remains strong and steadfast, expanding to welcome, embrace and sustain all people. She leverages the universal language of dance to honor African American heritage, explore the human condition and offer a transformative experience through physical movement. 

Students with their instructor during Cleo Parker Robinson's residency

In addition to the student performances, Friday’s and Saturday’s shows will feature the range of athletic, entertaining and historic works unique to CPRD. Currently celebrating its 49th season, CPRD is rooted in African American traditions, dedicated to excellence in performances and community programming and committed to honoring diversity and inclusiveness throughout the global community.