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Release: Immediate

Duarte's 'Floresta' dances through the Amazon rain forest, Jan. 24-26

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Dance Department will present "Floresta," faculty member Armando Duarte's response to the rain forest in his native Brazil, at 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Jan. 24-26, in the Space/Place Theatre of UI North Hall.

The Saturday audience will be invited to remain after the performance for a discussion with Duarte and his creative team. The final performance, on Sunday, will be followed by a reception featuring traditional Brazilian treats.

The concert-length production, performed by a company of 18 student dancers, features music provided to Duarte by internationally known Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos, as well as environmental sounds of the Amazon, chants by the Kaiapo tribe of the rain forest, and music by Brazilian musician Egberto Gismonti.
The visual elements of the production include photographs and videos taken by Duarte on his visits to the rain forest.

Duarte stresses that "Floresta" is not a political or polemical work, but rather "an abstract expression of the experience of going into the rain forest." But it is now impossible to study the rain forest without being aware of the environmental debate, and it is impossible to visit the rain forest without witnessing the rapid destruction and its effect both on the forest and on the people who live there.

One section of "Floresta" responds directly to the deforestation, and the final section is titled "Voices (Listen to the Voices of Nature)," which suggests questions about the consequences of human exploitation of the forest, and the possibility that humans can still respond positively to nature.

Although the work does not attempt to promote any particular political stance, Duarte hopes that "Floresta" will provoke thought and discussion about the relationship of man and nature, and the potential consequences when man becomes the enemy of nature.

Duarte grew up in Sao Paulo, one of the world's largest cities. "It is a jungle, but a different kind of jungle -- polluted, over-populated, full of concrete, cement and asphalt," he says. Although he knew of the rain forest, it was several days journey away and far from the concerns of his urban life.

Only after he came to Iowa and the destruction of the rain forest emerged as a major international environmental issue did Duarte conceive that the forest might be a fitting subject for his creative imagination.

Two UI Old Gold Summer Fellowships enabled Duarte to conduct his research, including meetings with researchers and rain forest inhabitants, visits to libraries and museums, and his first journeys into the rain forest.

On his first trip he hired a boatman for a five-day journey into the jungle, and he says his initial response was simple awe: "I was not prepared for how massive and overwhelming the forest is. There is more activity than you can absorb."

Some parts of "Floresta" represent his memories of that boat trip, with the sensory overload of the constant motion of the jungle and the passing stream of new sights and sounds. Other sections reflect the people who live in the forest -- their culture, beliefs and economies -- as well as representations of the wildlife that teems in the forest.

"Floresta" is directed by John Edward Lynch, with set and costume design by Bret Gothe and Margaret Wenk, and lighting design by Gary N. Holmquist.

Admission to "Floresta" will be $5 at the door.

"Floresta" is the performance portion of Duarte's "Jungle Project," which includes choreography, workshops, lectures and documentation dealing with the rain forest and international concern about its future.

During the development of the choreography, excerpts from "Floresta" were performed as part of the UI Dance Company's Dance Gala, presented in November in Hancher Auditorium.

Part of the "Jungle Project" involved the development of study materials that will be used by more than 200 secondary-school students who will view a matinee of "Floresta" on Jan. 22, through the UI Arts Share program.

Arts Share is a UI program that provides artistic expertise from the Iowa Center for the Arts to schools, local arts councils, community arts associations, museums, senior citizen centers and other organizations throughout Iowa and the surrounding region. The Arts Share presents educational activities on the UI campus and also coordinates a roster of touring artists that includes nearly 100 faculty members, ensembles and graduate students in the performing, visual and literary arts.

For additional information about the study materials and other educational components of the "Jungle Project," contact Allison Cox at Arts Share, (319) 335-1618.