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Release: Immediate

'Departures'/Dance Gala ranges from ballet to modern dance to clowning

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Dance Company will present "Departures"/Dance Gala, the 1997 edition of its major annual production, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15, in Hancher Auditorium. The "Departures" program ranges from ballet to contemporary dance to jazz dance to theatrical clowning.

The program features not only a spectrum of new choreography by UI faculty members and students, but also the work of two guest artists -- ballet choreographer Luis Fuente, the ballet master of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago; and internationally renowned theatrical clown Bob Berky.

Fuente was a leading dancer for the Joffrey Ballet, the National Ballet in Washington, D.C., the National Ballet of Holland and the London Festival Ballet, and he was the founder/director of Ballet de Luis Fuente in his native Spain. Fuente's heritage is expressed in "Nacencia," a ballet ensemble work set to Spanish music. "Nacencia" was created for the UI Dance Company when Fuente was in residence at the UI dance department in September.

Faculty member Francoise Martinet, also a veteran of the Joffrey Ballet, has directed rehearsals of "Nacencia" since Fuente's departure.

UI Dance Company Artistic Director Alicia Brown has long contemplated importing two-time Hancher headliner Berky as a Dance Gala guest artist, although he is neither a dancer nor a choreographer. "He's a unique talent and someone who deserves to be seen again by audiences here," Brown says "I also wanted to have humor and fun within the Gala repertoire. He was perfect."

Berky won an OBIE Award for his work with the performance ensemble Foolsfire, and he received the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival for his one-man show. His many television appearances include specials on PBS, Canal Plus, MTV, Disney and Nickelodeon. In Hancher he performed with juggler Michael Moschen in the off-Broadway hit "The Alchemedians" and in his one-man show.

Now Brown's dream is being realized, but not in a way she could have anticipated. This fall Berky enrolled as a graduate student in the UI Playwrights Workshop and moved to Iowa City with his wife, Babs Case, an alumna of the UI dance department. Brown, who was one of Case's teachers, says, "I literally fell out of my chair when I heard Babs was married to him."

Although Berky never utters a word in his stage appearances, communicating instead with movement and toots on a duck call, he has developed an increasing interest in playwriting. His first play, "Cooking the World," won the Kennedy Center's 1991 New American Plays Roger L. Stevens Award. For several years he has been looking for an opportunity to concentrate on creating scripts.

Case and Berky often conduct comedy and movement workshops together. When they were traveling back to their home on the East Coast from a workshop in Wyoming, Case suggested that as long as they were driving I-80, they should stop in Iowa City to check out the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. Berky enrolled, and Case has also returned to the UI to work on a master of fine arts degree in dance.

Faculty member David Berkey created "Along Came A Spider," set to Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, this summer for the debut of his new David Berkey Dance Company in the UI Space/Place Theatre.

Berkey's inventive contemporary choreography, which has been a regular part of Dance Gala programs for more than a decade, has also been performed by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, France's Ballet du Nord, Ballet Arizona and the Eugene Ballet in Oregon. He was awarded a Yard Choreographer's residency in 1995 and a Carlisle Project Choreographers Workshop in 1996.

"When I Dream . . ." by faculty member Armando Duarte uses music of Bobby McFerrin as the sonic atmosphere for an exploration of sleep, dreams and the rituals of night and morning.

Duarte was a dancer, choreographer and teacher in his native Brazil, including winning the Best New Choreographer Award from the Sao Paulo Association of Arts Reviewers, before moving to the United States on a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. He came to the UI after working with Rachel Lampert and Dancers in New York, and as a faculty member of the dance department he has staged several works for the Dance Gala and has been co-artistic director of the touring ensemble Dancers in Company.

Country and folk music -- performed by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and Mark O'Connor -- provide the backdrop for faculty member Alan Sener's Dance Gala contribution, a large ensemble work titled "Under Red Hill by County Fair Down."

Sener was a principal dancer with the Louis Falco Dance Company and is now the artistic director of the Falco estate. He has staged Falco works for companies around the world, and his own choreographic commissions include works for the University of Utah, Ball State University, West Texas A and M University and the Cleveland Playhouse.

Completing the "Departures" program is a slice of '60s nostalgia, "Return to Retro" by Sabrina Madison-Cannon. A former member of Philadanco, Madison-Cannon is now a UI dance graduate student. This "feel good" jazz work recalls the rebellious and playful attitudes of the late '60s and early '70s, using music by artists including David Bowie, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix.

Madison-Cannon began her dance training in the UI Talented and Gifted Program and later was schooled at the National Academy of Arts and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center before her professional career.

Artistic contributors to the "Departures" production include costume designer Margaret Wenk, and lighting designers Gary Holmquist and emeritus theater faculty member David Thayer.

Tickets for "Departures"/Dance Gala '97 are $14 and $12. UI student and senior citizen prices are $10 and $8, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price. Audience members who wish to provide additional. much-needed support to the Dance Department may purchase a $30 patron tickets, which includes a $16, tax-deductible contribution to the Dance Department through the University of Iowa Foundation.

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 Dance Gala is sponsored, in part, by the Iowa City Press Citizen.