Mission & History

"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."

Colorado Ballet's first Nutcracker - Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library


Colorado Ballet’s mission is to present exceptional classical ballet and contemporary dance through performances, training, education and community engagement while inspiring and growing an increasingly diverse audience base.

Colorado Ballet's History

Lillian Covillo and Freidann ParkerNearly 60 years after its foundation, Colorado Ballet has grown into a world-class ballet company with 31 professional Company dancers and 21 Studio Company dancers presenting more than 50 classical and contemporary ballet performances every year.  The Colorado Ballet Academy educates the next generation of dancers from toddlers to adults, beginners to pre-professionals.  Colorado Ballet’s outstanding education and community engagement programs enable thousands to experience the magic of dance, making more than 35,000 contacts each year.

What is now a successful professional dance company was initially conceived as a ballet school, founded by Denver natives Freidann Parker and Lillian Covillo in 1951.  Within a few years, the Covillo-Parker School of Dance proved to be a success and Covillo and Parker decided to expand, starting the Covillo-Parker Theater Ballet.  By 1961, they looked for a way to feature their talented dancers and the Covillo-Parker Theater Ballet became the Colorado Concert Ballet, thus Colorado Ballet was born.  The 1961-1962 season began with Denver’s first full-length production of The Nutcracker.  They successfully sold out six performances of the holiday classic, ushering in a beloved tradition that has continued every year since then in Denver.

For the next few years, Covillo and Parker continued to stay busy, bringing more artists to Colorado and adding to the Company’s expanding repertoire.  By 1968, the Company hit the road for its first tour of the state.  By 1976, Colorado Concert Ballet produced 33 performances of The Nutcracker and three other productions that season.  By October of that year, Colorado Concert ballet achieved full professional status with a total roster of eight professional dancers.  Two years later, the Board of Trustees changed the Company’s name to Colorado Ballet.  That season also marked the first year that the Company performed The Nutcracker at the Auditorium Theater and the next season, the Company performed all of its productions at the theater.

In 1980, Colorado Ballet hired its first Artistic Director, Fernand Nault, who had been an artistic adviser for the Company.  However, he left a year later, unable realize his goals of expanding the Company due to economic realities of the time.  The Company’s Ballet Master William Thompson moved into the role and he remained on as the artistic director through December 1986.  The Board of Trustees made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 1986-1987 season after The Nutcracker to focus on finding a new artistic director.

Covillo and Parker contacted Martin Fredmann, who was artistic director at Tampa Ballet in Florida.  Due to the difficult economy at the time, several other ballet companies had created joint partnerships, so in 1987, Colorado Ballet and Tampa Ballet joined forces, performing 18 weeks in Tampa and 18 weeks in Denver.  This proved to be a great fit as Colorado Ballet was without dancers and Tampa Ballet needed more performance opportunities.  The partnership remained successful for three years, and in 1990, the Board of Trustees decided to the dissolve the alliance and move the Company permanently to Denver.

Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker

Over the next several years under Fredmann’s artistic leadership, Colorado Ballet secured itself as one of the leading arts organizations in Colorado.  In 1993, Colorado Ballet made its New York debut to favorable reviews.  In 1995, the Company formed Colorado Ballet II, which is now known as Colorado Ballet’s Studio Company.  Throughout the 1990’s, the Company continued to receive national recognition for its artistic achievements.

By the time the Company celebrated its 40th anniversary in the early 2000's, the organization’s annual budget had grown to $5.1 million, with 30 professional dancers, 20 apprentices and an Academy with 250 students.  In August 2002, Colorado Ballet mourned the passing of co-founder Freidann Parker.

In 2006, the renovated Auditorium Theater reopened as the Ellie Caulkins Opera House and the venue has remained as Colorado Ballet’s primary performance venue ever since.

In the 2006-2007 season, Gil Boggs, a former American Ballet Theatre principal, began his tenure as Artistic Director of Colorado Ballet.  Boggs infused a new creative energy into the Company, successfully bringing in noted choreographers and repetiteurs to create new works on the Company and re-stage beloved classics.  During his tenure, Colorado Ballet has added to its expansive repertoire and has received some of the best critical reviews in its history.

Artists of Colorado Ballet in Swan Lake by Mike Watson

In 2010, the Company celebrated its 50th anniversary and paid tribute to its founders, with Covillo in attendance.  In November 2010, Colorado Ballet lost its other co-founder, Lillian Covillo.

After more than two decades of leasing a space near Colorado’s Capitol Building, and a lifetime of renting dance rehearsal and training facilities, Colorado Ballet purchased a building at the north end of Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe in 2013.  For the first time in its history, Colorado Ballet owned its home.  The Company renovated the space and moved into its new home in August 2014.  The 30,000 square foot state-of-the-art rehearsal and training facility now houses Colorado Ballet’s 31 professional Company dancers, 21 Studio Company dancers and 1,500 Academy students.

Colorado Ballet by David Lauer Photography

As one of the oldest and most successful arts organizations in the region, Colorado Ballet continues to present world-class productions and its audience grows every year.  The last four seasons have been the most successful in Colorado Ballet’s history, breaking both revenue and attendance records.  During the 2016-2017 season, Colorado Ballet’s ticketing revenue exceeded more than $4 million for the first time and more than 87,000 people watched Colorado Ballet’s productions.  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.

Colorado Ballet would not be what it is today if not for the vision of founders Lillian Covillo and Freidann Parker as well as the dedication of its dancers, artistic directors, staff, board and the state of Colorado for supporting it for nearly 60 years.

Photos: Freidann Parker and Lillian Covillo and Colorado Ballet's first Nutcracker, courtesy of the Carson Brierly Giffin Dance Library; Artists of Colorado Ballet in Swan Lake by Mike Watson; Colorado Ballet by David Lauer Photography

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