Sold-Out Dancing with the Denver Stars Gala Raises $150,000

The 13th Annual Dancing with the Denver Stars (DWTDS) gala was held on August 12, at the Denver Hilton City Center ballroom. The event, along with a paddle-raise fundraiser hosted by professional broadcaster and former Denver Broncos running back, Reggie Rivers, raised $150,000 to support Cleo Parker Robinson Dance’s (CPRD) dance and cultural arts outreach in schools.

This year’s event featured 13 stars, selected for their professional and philanthropic contributions to Denver. Colorado Special Olympics medalist, Cody Fields, and former Denver Broncos running back, Terrell Davis, headlined the event.

They were joined by Laura Nieto (Southwest Airlines), Naquetta Ricks (Colorado HD40), Meredith Leighty (BelArts & Mayor of Northglenn), Michelle Griego (CBS Colorado), Kelly Flenniken (Xcel Energy), Dakeana Jones-Bishop (All Health Network), Brian Holland (Mortenson Construction), Brian Vogt (Denver Botanic Gardens), Chris Ross (US Bank), Maisha Fields (Dayton Street Clinic), and Lauren Guthrie (VF Corporation). 

Paired with professional dancers from CPRD Ensemble and its apprentice company, the teams performed an array of brilliant choreography to the amazement of the audience. Thunderous standing ovations followed a diverse range of songs from Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, and Missy Elliott, musical selections that matched the gala’s Celebrating the Divas of Music theme.

The joyous evening was kicked off by video greetings from former Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and his newly elected successor, Mayor Mike Johnston. Hancock, who previously participated as a DWTDS headliner, challenged Johnston to dance in the event. 

“Black Mike and white Mike!” joked comedian Shed G as the diverse audience of over 700 guests laughed and cheered. Joined on stage by Cleo Parker Robinson herself, Shed G officiated the evening, inviting Shorter AME Church’s Reverend Timothy Tyler, to bless the event with his invocation. A grand entrance of stars was followed by an opening performance by the CPRD

youth and apprentice ensembles. The evening was a success, with masterful choreography that superseded expectations and left the audience in awe.

The sold-out DWTDS event was hosted by Co-Chairs Holly Velasquez-Horvath of Xcel Energy and Jerome Davis of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Davis joked “I’ve been wanting to dance in this event for years. Since I’ve co-chaired the event, does this mean I’m a step closer?”

Velasquez-Horvath and Davis were joined by Honorary Chairs Jane and Skip Netzorg, who have been instrumental to CPRD’s efforts to expand their facilities and location. The Netzorgs have made significant contributions to the CPRD Capital Campaign, which is raising funds to complete an expansion. The physical expansion, designed by architect Curt Fentress, will support CPRD programs, including the Arts-In-Education initiative, which is primarily funded by ticket sales and donations from the DWTDS gala.

In addition to their love and appreciation for CPRD’s dance programs, the Netzorg’s support the mission of the organization’s role in the community, and serve as CPRD Capital Campaign committee members. “Cleo Parker Robinson Dance is the intersection of social justice and the performing arts,” Skip shared.

Since 2018, CPRD Arts-In-Education programs have provided 3,574 engagements to 732 schools – serving over 250,000 students in Colorado and throughout the country as the ensemble tours. The organization provides stipends up to 47% for school partners, ensuring that all students have access to dance and cultural education.

CPRD’s Arts-In-Education initiative resulted in the launch of a dance and cultural arts curriculum in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance at Metropolitan State University of Denver. In total, it has created 7 new school-age programs focused on movement and engaging conversations on equity and social justice. 

Statewide supporters of CPRD Arts-In-Education programs acknowledge the considerable benefit of arts education and its impact on student health and achievement. Karen McNeil Miller, CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, praised the program, saying, “Dance is movement and movement is health, so every time CPRD engages a student in their classes or in the many schools served, they are focusing on health.”

One of this year’s DWTDS participants, Meredith Leighty, works as principal of JeffCo’s Belmar School of Integrated Arts (BelArts), in addition to serving as the mayor of Northglenn, Colorado. BelArts hosted its back-to-school event on August 14, just days after Leighty’s gala appearance. She incorporated group dance sessions led by members of the Cleo II apprentice ensemble and spoke to CBS Colorado about the growing partnership between CPRD and her beloved school. “My kids benefitted from CPRD AIE in the Adams County Studio School, and I want to share with everyone how amazing this program is for students at BelArts and all schools,” she said.

With Arts-In-Education dance and cultural arts outreach prominently featured as the gala’s fundraising mission, the paddle-raise portion of the evening garnered $141,500. Four days later, donations increased total proceeds to $150,000, ensuring that CPRD can continue to expand its efforts for an even larger impact.

Malik Robinson, CPRD Executive Director noted, “This 13th year of the gala includes more than 50 decades of commitment by a village of community leaders and artists.”

Having provided distinguished dance programs and outreach in Denver and around the world, CPRD is a pillar of the community whose contributions have educated and inspired dance enthusiasts since 1970. The DWTDS gala is an opportunity for leaders to give back, even if just for one mesmerizing night of movement.

“Who would have thought this event would become what it is today?” CPRD Board Chair Gwen Brewer mused, with an invitation, “If you’re inspired to dance, come see me—soon. I’m taking names!”

Editor’s Note: For information about CPRD Arts-In-Education programs, contact Shelby Jarosz at