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Release: Immediate

Washington Ballet performs 'Hansel and Gretel' April 12-13 in Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Washington Ballet, the major ballet company from our nation's capital, will perform its production of "Hansel and Gretel" at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 12 and 13, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The event is part of the Iowa City Press-Citizen Family Dance Series.

The performances will feature 15 local dancers, ages nine through 14, in the roles of bunnies, rats and skunks that Hansel and Gretel encounter in the forest. The young dancers were rehearsed by Diane Danhieux, co-director of Iowa City's Terpsichore School of Dance.

The Washington Ballet's "Hansel and Gretel" is danced to music from Engelbert Humperdinck's popular 1893 opera version of the well-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The production was an instant success when it premiered in 1995 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Washington Post's Alan Kriegsman described the production as "wholesome, likable, lightweight family entertainment with no pretensions," and the Washington Times called it "splendid visually . . . imaginative and beautiful . . . (with) a multitude of charms."

The ballet was choreographed by Rick McCollough, gold-medal winner in the Boston International Competition and a former dancer with the North Carolina Dance Theater, the Harkness Ballet and the Netherlands Dance Theatre. He has created works for the Boston Ballet, the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the North Carolina Dance Theater.

His ballet faithfully follows the familiar storyline: Hansel and Gretel, the children of a poor German broom-maker, are playing and dancing instead of doing their household chores. Their mother becomes so annoyed that she sends them out into the forest to pick berries.

In the depths of the forest, Hansel and Gretel are captured by a wicked witch and held prisoner in her gingerbread house. The witch intends to cook Hansel in her oven, but the children outsmart her and succeed in pushing her into the oven instead. At the witch's death, all the gingerbread children who have fallen under her spell are brought back to life.

Inherently theatrical, the story provides opportunities for colorful and fantastic costumes and sets, as well as special effects including broom flights and an exploding oven.

Founded by American ballet pioneer Mary Day, the Washington Ballet has been recognized for its high standards, artistic integrity and strong repertory. The company's dancers and choreographers have won numerous international awards, including the Excellence in Partnering award at the New York International Ballet Competition, first prize at the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, the Gold Medal at the Moscow Ballet Competition and the choreography award at the Varna International Ballet Competition.

In more than 20 years of existence, the Washington Ballet has represented the United States on numerous tours of the Far East, Europe, South America, China and Russia, winning rave reviews. The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong called the Washington Ballet "as fine an example of good choreography and talented performers as can be found anywhere."

Founder Mary Day has won the title of "Grand Dame" in the nation's capital, her hometown, where it was her vision to establish an organization that would be recognized nationally for its standards of quality. Although the Washington Ballet became a full, professional ensemble in 1976, the company's roots stretch back to the 1930s, representing a six-decade commitment to quality ballet in Washington, D.C.

Tickets for "Hansel and Gretel" are $24, $20 and $18. 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.

Further information about this event is available on Hancher's World Wide Web homepage, at <>. Additional information about the company, including a Quicktime movie clip of "Hansel and Gretel," is available on the Washington Ballet World Wide Web site: <>.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen is the corporate sponsor of Hancher's 1996-97 Family Dance Series through the University of Iowa Foundation.