Performing Arts in Colorado

Colorado’s music, dance and theater organizations are known for presenting popular masterpieces as well as innovative new works.

By: Colorado.com Staff Writer
Updated: March 14, 2024

Colorado's love of the arts, from American musicals and ballet to traditional African dance, ensures that any seat is the best seat in the house. And thanks to the many adaptive ways to experience the performing arts, there’s something for anyone of any ability to enjoy and ways to get involved in these performing arts venues.

Theater

The Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theatre Com­pany is the region’s largest corps of theater professionals. One of its greatest successes is the annual Colorado New Play Summit, which encour­ages novel voices in theater by hosting up-and-coming writers, directors, actors and critics, and stages new works.

The complex of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) itself is home to nine theaters, and depending on the show, the DCPA provides adaptive ways to experience theater, including ASL interpretation, open captioning, audio descriptions, sensory-friendly services and an in-progress personal captioning program.

For less traditional fare, Denver’s neighborhoods are rich with visionary performance venues. Curious Theatre Company and The Bug Theatre can all be counted on to show audiences something original. Theater lovers also head to Boulder each summer for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival on the University of Colorado campus, where outdoor stages offer majestic views and the seating provides wheelchair-accessible spots.

Opera

Opera Colorado presents live classical operas performed in their original languages, with translations projected on the seatbacks. Previous seasons included such favorites as Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Puccini’s “Tosca.” Performances are held at The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, which was lavishly restored in 2005 and is part of the Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC), one of the largest arts campuses in the nation.

Among other initiatives in Opera Colorado's accessibility program, the theater also provides Braille and large-print programs for the blind and people with visual impairments, assistive-listening devices, audio-described performances for Sunday matinees and subtitles.

Dance

The Colorado Ballet also graces the stage at The Ellie, as the opera house is known. The dancers delight audiences with a contemporary and time-honored repertoire, including “The Nut­cracker” each Nov­ember and Decem­ber. Colorado Ballet's Adaptive Programs encourage students with disabilities to learn ballet through weekly and after-school classes and workshops.

Denver offers other dance-company experiences, too, inclu­ding Kim Robards Dance, the Hannah Kahn Dance Company and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Studio (which provides masterclasses in everything from jazz to hip hop as a celebration of the uniqueness and community we find through movement).

The BaoBao Foundation, serving as a gathering place to appreciate West African, and specifically Ghanaian, culture in Colorado proudly presents the Mokomba Ensemble, a joyful and unifying dance troupe in Boulder. The Mokomba Ensemble performs authentic and traditional Ghanaian group dances like Bamaya and Gota — complete with colorful, flowing clothes — to the beat of kpanlogo and donno drums.

In Aurora, classical Mexican dance classes thrive at Academia de Ballet Folklorico Nezahualcoyotl. Kids and adults can learn how to perform this traditional art full of Spanish and Indigenous Mexican folk flare, including brightly colored dress, elaborate steps and the roaring brass of mariachi music.

West of Denver, the Vail Inter­national Dance Festival is another can’t-miss ballet institution. Held in August, three weeks of ballet and modern dance performances take place at the Vilar Center for the Arts and the open-air Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater.

Music

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra is the Rocky Mountain region’s only full-time professional orchestra. Previous seasons have included performances from “Mozart Extravaganza” to “Broadway Rocks! From Phantom To Dreamgirls.” Performances are held at the Boettcher Concert Hall in the DPAC.

The 12-member Colorado Chamber Players present more than 50 events annually at venues around the state and are well known for performances on Colorado Public Radio. One of Denver’s most beloved music events is the City Park Jazz series. Music filters out from the park’s bandstand to the audience, who gathers on blankets with picnic baskets every Sunday summer evening.

The Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley is a popular destination for up-and-coming artists as well as classic favorites. As a leading theater in Northern Colorado, the center proudly hosts a variety of singers and bands right in the heart of downtown Greeley. Union Colony Civic Center boasts two theaters, the Hensel Phelps Theatre and Monfort Concert Hall, and the art showroom, Tointon Gallery, where ten exhibits display works from local and national artists.

As part of the center's dedication to making the arts as accessible as possible, both theaters provide systems for the hearing-impaired, including a hearing loop system that allows direct integration with certain hearing aids. For anyone who signs or knows ASL and would prefer to watch a signed performance, contact the Union Colony Civic Center and let them know what specific style you need, and they’ll be happy to accommodate.

Adaptive Dance & Theater

The PHAMALy Theatre Company in Denver is an affirming and artistic group for actors, dancers and singers with disabilities. Founded by five Boettcher School students living with disabilities in 1989, the once-named Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actors League is devoted to providing a safe and supportive environment where actors with various physical, emotional and cognitive abilities feel empowered to hone their craft on stage.

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