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Release: Release: August 2, 1999

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Our research suggests that the Millennium Festival at the University of Iowa is the most ambitious and extensive new-performing-arts celebration of the millennium in the U.S. So please don’t forget us in your millennium coverage. For information about the entire season visit

UI Millennium Festival is one of world's most ambitious artistic celebrations

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 1999-2000 performing arts season at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium will contribute to the world-wide celebration of the millennium with an ambitious Millennium Festival, featuring 16 major commissions in music, theater and dance. Fifteen of the commissioned works and productions will be given their world or American premieres in Hancher, making the UI festival one of the most extensive performing-art programs to celebrate the new millennium anywhere in the world.

New works have been created -- or will be created -- by choreographers Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; Canadian theater visionary Robert Lepage; and composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, UI alumnus David Lang and Mexico’s Gabriela Ortiz.

Performances of the commissioned works will be presented by prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, the Kronos Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, Sankai Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

Several of the commissioned works will be presented in the midst of residencies that will feature extensive arts education efforts, including events cabled statewide on the Iowa Communication Network (ICN). The ICN is a unique, state-owned fiber-optic network linking educational institutions, libraries, community centers and government agencies for real-time audio-visual interaction.

"Why a Millennium Festival?" Hancher director Wallace Chappell asks. "Why not! The world seems to be intent on marking this moment, so we decided to join the party by doing what we know how to do, which is to nurture the creation and enable the presentation of the performing arts."

During the ‘80s and ‘90s, Hancher has commissioned more than 50 works in music, theater, and dance -- including the Joffrey Ballet mega-productions of "The Nutcracker" and "Billboards" -- drawing world-wide recognition, and building Hancher’s international reputation as an innovative leader in commissioning and presenter networking.

Even with that rich history, the Millennium Festival will represent nearly a quarter of the commissioning projects in Hancher’s history -- in a single season.

Despite the fact that the calendar’s fulcrum represents a religious event for many people, and the turn of the millennium is fraught with apocalyptic prophesies, Chappell is careful to note that Hancher’s celebration carries no religious or philosophical baggage. "Whatever the millennium is -- or isn’t -- we expect it to mean SOMETHING," he says. "We expect something extraordinary to occur. So our purpose in marking the millennium is to actually MAKE something significant occur in the arts.

"Hancher is taking positive action in order to confirm the value of the arts in the next millennium and to strengthen our commitment as a research and development center for artistry, a long-standing concern of the UI. The UI was the first university to integrate academics and the creative arts, so we have a venerable tradition to draw from, and to live up to."

Since Chappell’s intention was neither to summarize the past millennium nor predict the next, he approached many artists who are old friends of the auditorium, artists whose track records made them ideal choices for commissions. Chappell spiced that list just a bit with artists that he knew well but had not yet presented in Hancher.

The festival will actually open Sept. 10-12 with an American premiere by one of those artists, French-Canadian theater director Robert Lepage. His "Geometry of Miracles" was inspired by one of America’s greatest architectural visionaries, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose structures dot the landscape of Iowa and the Midwest. LePage is renowned for startling images of his own, making him one of theater’s most potent visionaries.

But the Millennium Festival’s official kick-off event will be an occasion worthy of Klieg lights, the Sept. 17-18 American premiere of Twyla Tharp’s new "Diabelli," set to the famous Beethoven "Diabelli Variations." "I was totally captivated by the seamless, enticing communication between the dancing and the playing," the critic for the Spectator wrote of the London premiere. "‘Diabelli’ shows clearly that her creative genius is back in full force and at its best." Clement Crisp wrote in London’s Financial Times, "‘Diabelli’ is dance uncompromising, bold. ... Tharp’s view of Beethoven is both honest and honourable and, no greater praise, illuminating."

Hancher has played an important role in the career of the Kronos Quartet, the iconoclastic ensemble that has revolutionized the contemporary definition of the string quartet. Building on numerous past commissions and premieres, Hancher will present the Kronos Quartet both on
Sept. 15, 1999 and on May 3, 2000 -- each time with commissioned world premieres. In September Kronos will present the debut of "Traveling Music," a far-ranging journey through world music and exotic instruments; and in May Kronos will be joined by diva Dawn Upshaw for a world premiere by Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.

Hancher has presented the apocalyptic Japanese dance company Sankai Juku on several occasions, but now the auditorium is becoming the company’s first American commissioner, with the American premiere of Ushio Amagatsu’s "Hibiki," Oct. 1-2.

Most of the new works in the Millennium Festival are the creations of the moment, with no explicit connection with the particular calendrical observance. An exception is choreographer Susan Marshall’s "The Descent Beckons." Marshall has taken her inspiration from celebrations of natural

cycles, specifically the rituals of the winter solstice. These rituals, which often involve journeys into the underworld, spiritual or physical transformations, and miracles of resurrection, are found in cultures around the world. This full-evening work, which Marshall describes as "outrageously good fun," views the last millennium through this process of birth, death, transformation, resurrection and hope. The production, featuring music by UI graduate David Lang, will be given its world premiere in Hancher Oct. 8-9.

Like Twyla Tharp, Paul Taylor has been one of the defining creators of modern dance for several decades, and his companies’ performances have been Hancher audience favorites. His young Taylor 2 company is in the midst of a three-season residency program that links Hancher with presenters in Burlington, Decorah and Pella through a grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund. For the Millennium Festival, the master is creating a new work for a Oct. 15-16 world premiere.

Bill T. Jones is another American choreographer with whom Hancher has had a long and productive relationship, and he has also been in residence in Waterloo/Cedar Falls through the Cedar Arts Forum. Hancher has co-commissioned some of Jones’ most famous and controversial works -- ambitious, full-evening productions tackling wrenching issues of race, faith, homosexuality and disease. Jones’ first work for the Millennium Festival will offer something strikingly different, a rare solo evening on Oct. 26. He will return in March with the world premiere of "Oh! You walk?"

Choreographer Lar Lubovitch is one of the UI’s most distinguished alumni in the arts, recognized as one of his generation’s most important dance creators. He is a fitting component of the Millennium Festival because he found the inspiration for his dance career in a Hancher performance he attended as a UI student. Hancher’s commission pairs him with one of America’s most venerable dance institutions, American Ballet Theatre, in Nov. 2-3 performances.

The collaboration of Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company brings together two old Hancher friends who exemplify the power and spirituality of African-American dance. Their world premiere will be presented in Hancher Nov. 19-20.

The spring season of the Millennium Festival will open with the Ahn Trio’s world premiere of a composition by Paul Schoenfield, whose "Tales From Chelm" was performed in Hancher by the Everest Quartet. The Ahn Trio is one of three ensembles participating in Hancher’s multi-year,
four-city residency program, and the Schoenfield composition will be performed for audiences in each city during the season.

Two more UI alums will play a central role in the April 8, 2000, collaboration between New York’s Bang on a Can and Sydney’s Australian Chamber Orchestra. School of Music alumnus David Lang is the founder, and one of the primary composers, of Bang on a Can, and one of the ensemble’s performers is percussionist Steven Schick, who was a fixture in the UI Center for New Music for several years.

In April, the Millennium Festival will present world premieres of works by two of America’s most in-demand composers, Pultizer Prize-winner Richard Danielpour and Cedar Rapids, Ia., native Michael Daugherty. The Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio will present the Danielpour composition on April 13, and Daugherty’s new work will be premiered by the Ethos Percussion Group (another ensemble with UI alumni connections) on April 18.

Major commissioning sponsors include Procter & Gamble, the National Endowment for the Arts and Chamber Music America’s "A Musical Celebration of the Millennium."

* * *

The Millennium Festival at Hancher Auditorium, The University of Iowa, Iowa City


9 -11 Thurs-Sat *Robert Lepage, "Geometry of Miracles," 8 pm, Hancher Loft

American premiere

15 Wed *Kronos Quartet, "Traveling Music," 8 pm. World premiere.
17 & 18 Fri & Sat *Twyla Tharp Dancers, "Diabelli Variations," 8 pm. American premiere


1 & 2 Fri & Sat *Sankai Juku, "Hibiki," 8 pm. American premiere.
8 Fri *Susan Marshall & Company, "The Descent Beckons," 8 pm

World premiere.

15 & 16 Fri & Sat *Paul Taylor Dance Company, 8 pm. World premiere.
23 Sat *"The Breathing Show–Bill T. Jones Solo," 8 pm. World Premiere.


2 & 3 Tues & Wed *American Ballet Theatre/Lar Lubovitch commission, 8 pm.

19 & 20 Fri & Sat *Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 8 pm.
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar world premiere

31 Fri Millennium Eve, The Glenn Miller Orchestra. 9 pm-1 am


27 Thurs *Ahn Trio, 8 pm, Clapp Recital Hall.
Paul Schoenfield world premiere.


3 & 4 Fri & Sat The Guthrie Theater, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," 8 pm

24 - 25 Fri & Sat *"Oh! You Walk?" Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, 8 pm
World premiere.


8 Sat *Australian Chamber Orchestra with Bang on a Can, 8 pm.
David Lang world premiere.

13 Thurs *Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, 8 pm, Clapp Recital Hall
Richard Danielpour world premiere.

18 Tues *Ethos Percussion Group, 8 pm, Clapp Recital Hall.
Michael Daugherty world premiere.


3 Wed *Dawn Upshaw and Kronos Quartet, 8 pm.
Gabriella Ortiz world premiere.