Main content

Distinguished Alumni Award: Denise Roberts Hurlin ’84

Dancer, educator, activist, and a founding member of Parsons Dance who also set David Parson’s work on the Purchase Dance Corps and Nederlands Dans Theater. 

Denise Roberts Hurlin ’84 was a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, where she danced the leads in such Taylor classics as Aureole, Big Bertha, Airs, Esplanade, Cloven Kingdom and Sunset and originated roles in Taylor’s Company B, Spindrift, Field of Grass and Speaking in Tongues, the Emmy award winning film for PBS/WNET Dance in America. For her artistry with Taylor, she was named outstanding performer of 1994 by New York dance historian and critic Joan Acocella.

As an educator, she has been a guest teacher at Juilliard, LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts, Keene State College, and at the Conservatory of Dance, Purchase College.*

As an activist, Hurlin is the founding director of Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA), a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In a New York City apartment, 30 years ago, she and fellow Taylor dancer, Conservatory of Dance graduate and DRA co-founder Hernando Cortez ’85 gathered a dozen dancers to talk about what they could do to help so many of their colleagues who were battling and dying of AIDS and DRA was created. 

Since then they’ve raised millions of dollars and presented over 60 new works created especially for DRA. Under her leadership, DRA has produced over 150 events including the annual Fire Island Dance Festival, one of the preeminent dance festivals in the United States and the Hudson Valley Dance Festival in Catskill NY, which ignited a dance boom in the Hudson Valley.

Stars of Tomorrow…giving back today is a young dancer DRA benefit Hurlin has produced in the Concert Hall at The Performing Arts Center for over 15 years, which brings together over 300 dancers from dance schools in the tri-state area annually to perform and fundraise for those in need.

In addition to her role at DRA, Hurlin became the director of Classical Action in 2018 following the passing of founder Charles Hamlin. Classical Action is also a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. 

She is an inaugural member and still serves on the advisory council for The Dancers’ Resource, a program of The Actors Fund founded by Bebe Neuwirth, and sits on the Presenters Council for Dance/USA.

Hurlin received, on behalf of DRA, a Bessie Award Special Citation and the Creative Excellence Award by Jennifer Muller/The Works at its 35th anniversary gala. Hurlin was presented with the 2017 Martha Hill Dance Fund Mid-Career Award and 2018 honoree at the Chase Brock Experience Gala. DRA is a recipient of a Dance Magazine Award

At Purchase, Hurlin received the President’s Award for Achievement. Hurlin is married to Broadway Cares Production Manager Nathan Hurlin. They are proud parents of Henry (20 yrs) and Catherine (25 yrs), a soloist at American Ballet Theatre.