The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble once again makes the trek from Colorado to Charleston for a performance at MOJA. Besides taking part in the gala evening of dance, the troupe will teach two master classes to area elementary, middle, and high schoolers.

“After two weeks of performances at our home base in Colorado, the dancers are working around the clock, and the ensemble is ready to return to Charleston next week for their second year in the festival,” says CPRD’s Marketing Manager Quinn Washington.

Audience members and students will be exposed to a diverse group of a dozen dancers — their backgrounds range from circus performing to training at some of the top ballet schools in the country.

“Our message — that everyone can dance — is the same no matter where they’ve come from,” Washington says of the dancers.

Whether they started out dancing in the street or in the classroom, the ensemble members have come together to share the language of dance, inspired by African-American culture, expression, healing, and peace.

The ensemble’s executive artistic director Cleo Parker Robinson founded the company in the 1970s as a grassroots organization. Robinson herself carries many accolades including being named to the National Council for the Arts by former President Bill Clinton in 1999. Following Robinson’s lead, CPRD is centered around the belief that dance transcends all language, cultural, class, and age barriers. The group has grown into a performance ensemble and education institution, traveling nationally and abroad.

Their performance in Charleston will include four works, beginning with “Arranged.” Choreographed by Milton Myers, it’s a tribute to the company’s former artistic associate, Merceline “the Queen” Freeman, who died in July of this year. Former company member Gary Abbott restaged “Sweet Re” for the gala, inspired by Aretha Franklin. “O Fortuna” will hit a different note as an excerpt from Carl Orff’s famous cantana Carmina Burana. Choreographed by Robinson, this piece was created and first performed in the ’70s. Robinson also created the finale piece in celebration of her mentor, Katherine Dunham.