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Colorado Ballet's History

Lillian and Freidann

As one of the state's oldest and most successful arts institutions, Colorado Ballet is the only organization of its size and stature to produce classical ballet.  Colorado Ballet's mission is to present exceptional quality classical ballet and innovative dance through performances, training and education programs that are integral to the cultural life of our community.

Colorado Ballet is a nationally recognized regional dance company that was conceived as a ballet school, and founded in 1951, by Denver natives Freidann Parker and Lillian Covillo. To showcase their talented students, the life-long friends established Colorado Concert Ballet in 1961. The Company presented its very first production of The Nutcracker at the Bonfils Theater in Denver to sold out audiences.

“Our dream, at the time,” said Covillo, “was to have a company that was professional, so the dancers we were training didn’t have to go to other cities to find jobs.”

By 1978, Colorado Concert Ballet employed 16 men and women, and had achieved full professional status. The Board of Trustees increased the annual budget to $100,000 and refined the Company’s name. In doing so, Colorado Ballet was born. In 1987, Parker and Covillo conducted a nationwide search, at their own expense, for a new artistic director. With their choice of Martin Fredmann, they changed the course of Colorado Ballet.

“It all began in our imagination and continued to grow and become reality,” Parker recalled just weeks before her death in 2002.

In response to the lagging economy in Denver, Colorado Ballet looked to an emerging national trend among dance companies and entered into an alliance with Tampa Ballet. Through shared expenses, the alliance enabled the companies to develop an excellent artistic product with reduced financial risk. By 1990, Colorado Ballet achieved greater financial stability and community recognition, so the alliance was discontinued to better enable future growth of the Denver-based company. The decision reestablished Colorado Ballet as a resident company.

In the 2006-2007 season, Gil Boggs, a former American Ballet Theatre principal, began his tenure as artistic director of Colorado Ballet. Under his leadership, the Company has received some of the best critical reviews in its history, and looks forward to many more exciting and inspired seasons.

On October 21, 2010, the Company celebrated its 50 years and paid tribute to Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker. Covillo was in attendance and was able to see so many of the people she and Parker impacted through their dedication to the art they loved.  “Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see the day that Colorado Ballet would achieve such artistic success – not only in its production, but in the high quality of the dancers," said Covillo. “How truly great it is!”

On November 22, 2010, the Company suffered a significant loss with the passing of Lillian Covillo. Colorado Ballet would not be what it is today if not for the vision and dedication of Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker. 

Colorado Ballet is now one of the foremost arts organizations in the region. With a company of 30 professional dancers of national and international acclaim, 15-22 studio company dancers, an expansive repertoire, the Colorado Ballet Academy, and an amazing education and outreach program that makes more than 30,000 community contacts each season. 

In January 2013, Colorado Ballet purchased a building at the north end of Denver's Arts District on Santa Fe.  The organization renovated the 30,000 square foot building and moved into its new home at the Armstrong Center for Dance in August 2014.  For the first time in its history, Colorado Ballet owns it home.  Click here for more information on Colorado Ballet's home.

In December 2016, Colorado Ballet's The Nutcracker was named the best-loved Nutcracker in the 10th Annual Goldstar National Nutcracker Award contest, winning this coveted honor in a field that included more than 80 other productions throughout the U.S.

Photo: Freidann Parker and Lillian Covillo


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