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Release: Release: Aug. 27, 1999

American premiere of Twyla Tharp's 'Diabelli' is official kick-off of UI Millennium Festival

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The American premiere of Twyla Tharp's "Diabelli," performed by the Twyla Tharp Dancers, will be the official kick-off event of the Millennium Festival at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. The "Diabelli Variations," Beethoven's final major composition for piano, will be performed live on stage by pianist Paige Hoffman; and the production also features costumes by the noted international fashion designer Geoffrey Beene.

The performances, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 17 and 18, will be heralded by klieg lights scanning the sky and followed by parties in the Hancher lobby featuring dancing to the Orquesta de Jazz y Salsa Alto Maiz, refreshments and ticket drawings.

Tharp will discuss her choreography in a free event at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15 in Lecture Room 2 of UI Van Allen Hall. No tickets are required.

"Diabelli" was immediately hailed as a masterpiece after its summer world premiere in London. "I was totally captivated by the seamless, enticing communication between the dancing and the playing," the critic for the Spectator wrote. "'Diabelli' shows clearly that her creative genius is back in full force and at its best."

Clement Crisp wrote in the Financial Times, "'Diabelli' is dance uncompromising, bold. . . . Tharp's view of Beethoven is both honest and honourable and, no greater praise, illuminating."

A special treat of Tharp's visit to Iowa will be the staging of the "100s Project," involving 100 community participants in a unique performance opportunity. Based on Tharp's choreographic ideas from the '60s, the "100s Project" teaches 11 seconds of movement to each of the 100 participants, who will perform in a casual free event at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16 in Hancher.

The "100s Project" is a festive, day-long community event in which Tharp and her company work with the participants, who may range from those with absolutely no dance experience to dancers of advanced skills. The participants learn their movement phrases and gather for a
run-through before the performance.

At the performance, archival footage is used to trace the history of the project, and each of the 100 movements is both demonstrated and taught to members of the audience. After two company members perform the full sequence of 100 movements side-by-side, the 100 participants are invited on-stage to perform the 11-second phrases simultaneously. The participants and the audience are encouraged to attend the event in "costumes" evocative of 1969.

For additional information about the "100s Project," contact Hancher's education coordinator, Michelle Coleman, at (319) 335-0009.

Tharp has created more than 100 dances during the last four decades, putting her indelible, idiosyncratic stamp on contemporary dance. She has choreographed five Hollywood movies, has written a best-selling autobiography, and has been honored with two Emmy Awards, 15 honorary doctorates and a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant."

In addition to her own companies, distinguished classical and contemporary dance companies throughout the world, including the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theater and the Martha Graham Dance Company, have performed her works.

In addition to her work in films -- "Hair," "Ragtime," "Amadeus," White Nights" and "I'll Do Anything" -- Tharp's best-known works include "Deuce Coupe" for the Joffrey Ballet, "Push Comes to Shove" for Mikhail Baryshnikov, "Nine Sinatra Songs," "In the Upper Room" in collaboration with Philip Glass, "The Catherine Wheel" in collaboration with David Byrne, and her 1985 staging of "Singin' in the Rain." "Cutting Up," which she performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov, became one of contemporary dance's most successful tours, including sold-out performances in Hancher.

American Ballet Theater will perform "Push Comes to Shove" (sans Baryshnikov) in Hancher Nov. 2 and 3 as part of the Millennium Festival.

For her Hancher Millennium Festival commission, Tharp chose music that has come to represent the ability of an artistic genius to create sublime music from minimal resources. In 1819, the newly established music publisher Anton Diabelli sent an undistinguished waltz he had written to most of the composers of central Europe, asking each to contribute a variation that would be published to inaugurate his firm.

Eventually Diabelli's album appeared, with mostly mundane variations by 50 different composers, but in the meantime Beethoven decided to write not a single variation but a complete set. As time went on the set kept growing and Beethoven eventually produced no fewer than 33 variations that reveal the full emotional and technical range of his music, rivaling Bach's "Goldberg Variations" as a summation of a great composer's career.

In particular, Beethoven uses the variations to explore all forms of comedy, which makes the piece a touchstone both for Tharp's affinity for humor -- ranging from brainy wit to pratfall goofiness -- and her skills as a "musical" choreographer who probes and expresses music's depths and nuances with movement.

The Hancher Millennium Festival has emerged as the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival features 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance, with 15 of the commissioned works and productions receiving their world or American premieres in Hancher. (The number of commissions

just increased, with the finalizing of the Kronos Quartet programs, which will feature six commissioned works by international composers.)

In addition to "Diabelli," new works have been created -- or are being created -- by theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, UI alumnus David Lang.

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.

The commission of "Diabelli" was supported by H. John and Florence M. Hawkinson of Wilmette, Ill., and by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tickets for Twyla Tharp's "Diabelli" are $40, $35 and $30. 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. Tickets can be purchased at a substantial discount as part of Hancher's volume-purchase plan. A simultaneous purchase of three to five events qualifies for a 15-percent discount, and a simultaneous purchase of six or more events qualifies for a 20-percent discount.

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 entire 1999-2000 Hancher season -- including the season-spanning Millennium Festival -- is detailed in a free brochure, "At This Moment," which is available from the Hancher administrative offices (319-335-1130) or the Hancher box office.

People who are interested in providing financial support for the Millennium Festival should contact Victor Mashburn at the University of Iowa Foundation, 319-335-3305.