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(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Kudelka is pronounced "koo-DELL-kah."

National Ballet of Canada features Kudelka choreography in return to Hancher April 14

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The National Ballet of Canada, the leading ballet company in Canada, will feature the works of artistic director James Kudelka in its performance at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 14 in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. The performance, on the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Silver Anniversary Series, will feature Kudelka's "Musings" and "Desir," plus "Sphinx" by Glen Tetley.

Kudelka was the choreographer of Hancher's very first commission, "The Heart of the Matter," for the Joffrey Ballet in the 1985-86 season in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Center for the Arts. For Kudelka, a young choreographer just beginning to establish a reputation, the commission was important as his first work to be premiered by a major American company. "The Heart of the Matter" became an international hit on the Joffrey's tour, and Kudelka still lists the work as one of his choreographic landmarks.

In succeeding years Hancher Auditorium has commissioned nearly 50 works of music, theater and dance, winning international recognition as a major supporter of artists and a nurturer of the creative process. The presentation of the National Ballet of Canada, now led by the recipient of Hancher's first commission, during the auditorium's Silver anniversary season, emphasizes the important role that Hancher's commissioning can play.

"It was a very exciting time for me," Kudelka says. "Although I knew I had a very interesting commission from the San Francisco Ballet for the summer of 1986, Robert Joffrey called me at home and asked if I could do a small work for his company, which would actually premiere before the San Francisco Ballet commission would happen. Although Hancher's commission was not the first I was asked to do, it was the first one that actually went on. It was a breakthrough year for me, because both those commissions turned out rather well, and it started me on my career in a big way."

Kudelka is now among ballet's most important choreographers, and as artistic director of the National Ballet of Canada he controls the destiny of one the world's most respected companies.

"Musings," set to Mozart's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, demonstrates why Kudelka's ballets are known for their emotional charge and dramatic qualities: It is a lyrical and haunting work filled with nostalgia, memory and joie de vivre.

In "Desir," which Kudelka says represents a progression in the exploration of the dynamics of relationships that began in "The Heart of the Matter," he chose to choreograph to four waltzes from Prokofiev's "Cinderella." This ballet does not present any story, but instead allows seven couples to celebrate passion and pleasure in the light of the moon.

Tetley created "Sphinx" for American Ballet Theatre in 1983, inspired by Jean Cocteau's play "La machine infernale," which was based on the Greek myth of the sphinx. A winged creature with the head and breasts of a woman and the paws of a lion, the sphinx guarded the pass above Thebes and killed all travelers who could not answer a riddle. Only the young Oedipus answered correctly.

Cocteau had his Sphinx assume human form: In order to save Oedipus for herself, she tells him the answer to her riddle, thus losing everything. Set to Bohuslav Martinu's Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani, this melding of ballet and modern dance for three dancers -- the Sphinx, Oedipus and Anubis, the Egyptian jackal-headed god who acts as the voice of doom and warns the Sphinx of her folly -- is filled with emotion and passion.

The National Ballet of Canada has long been Canada's leading classical ballet company, but it is entering on a new era: This is the company's first season designed completely by Kudelka, who said his goal was to "create a vital choreographic signature with an artistic canon uniquely our own, while remaining true to our classical roots."

Kudelka's relationship with the National Ballet of Canada began at the age of 10 when, as a student with the National Ballet School, he appeared in his first production of "The Nutcracker."

Upon graduation from the school in 1972, he joined the company as a member of the corps de ballet. In 1981 Kudelka left the company and joined Les Grands Ballets Canadiens as a principal dancer and was resident choreographer there from 1984 until 1990.

In September 1992, on the invitation of former National Ballet Artistic Director Reid Anderson, he returned to the company as artist-in-residence. And in June 1996 Kudelka was appointed the National Ballet of Canada's artistic director.

Tickets for the National Ballet of Canada are $40, $37 and $32. 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 Clarion Hotel and Conference Center is the corporate sponsor of the Silver Anniversary Series through the University of Iowa Foundation.

For additional information about the National Ballet of Canada, visit the company's World Wide Web site at <>.