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Release: Immediate

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company returns to UI with two programs

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will present two different programs of Jones' recent choreography at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The performances are part of Hancher's 1996-97 Innovation Afoot series.

Both programs explore the power of the human voice -- both speaking and singing -- as an inspiration for dance. On March 14 Jones and his 10 dancers will perform "After Black Room" (1993), performed to musical settings of Omar Khayyam's Arabic poetry composed by Sarah Plant, the music director of the Oscar-nominated film "Eat Drink Man Woman"

Also on the March 14 program are "Sur La Place" (1996), a trio with music and lyrics by the popular French songwriter Jacques Brel; and "Ursonate" (1996), danced to a vocal but wordless "sound poem" composed in 1928 by German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters and performed by Canadian composer and conductor Christopher Butterfield.

The March 15 program features poetry written and read by Dylan Thomas in "Ballad" (1995); "Blue Phrase" (1996) with music by legendary jazz reedman Eric Dolphy; "New Duet" (1995), featuring folk music of Madagascar, as well as compositions by John Oswald and Laurel McDonald; and "Love Re-Defined" (1996), performed to music and lyrics written and performed by Daniel Johnston.

Of working with the poetry read by Dylan Thomas, Jones says: "I got all of his old recordings and realized that I was falling in love with his story and this person who believed in poetry as a profound affirmation of our humanity. He is a consummate musician when he reads, so my way into the world of his poetry was through his rhythm and the musicality of the language."

Jones, who has not danced with his company in recent years, will perform in several of the works on the March 14 and 15 programs. The company itself has a new look and personality, featuring several new dancers who have replaced long-time members who have departed or are on leave this spring.

In more than two decades of work Jones has established himself as one of the most creative, provocative and controversial choreographers of contemporary dance. The facts that Jones is black, gay and HIV-positive, and that he lost partner Arnie Zane to AIDS, have inspired and informed much of his highly theatrical, issue-oriented work.

Jones often tackles big issues with fearless honesty, as in his epic works "The Last Supper At Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land," which was partly commissioned by Hancher Auditorium and was broadcast on the PBS "Great Performances" series, and "Still/Here" which received its American premiere in Hancher.

"Still/Here," based on the experiences, observations and feelings of people surviving with life-threatening illnesses, was broadcast nationwide in a version designed especially for PBS. The creation of the work was the subject of a recentBill Moyers public TV special, which included considerable video shot in Iowa City at the premiere and at a "survival workshop" in which Jones interacted with Iowans struggling with cancer, AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other potentially terminal ailments.

After performing and choreographing internationally, Jones and Zane founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in 1982. Jones has created more than 40 works for the company and has also received commissions from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Boston Ballet, the Berlin Opera Ballet and other prominent companies. Jones became resident choreographer of France's Lyon Opera Ballet in 1994.

Jones was honored with a 1994 MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the 1993 Dance Magazine Award, and he has also received the Creative Artists Public Service Award in Choreography, three choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Dorothy B. Chandler Performing Arts Award and two Bessie Awards.

His memoir, "Last Night on Earth," was published in 1995.

Tickets for the March 14 and 15 performances of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company are $27, $23 and $21. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and 1-3 p.m. Sunday. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

The Innovation Afoot series is supported by an anonymous donor, through the University of Iowa Foundation.