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Release: Immediate

(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Ko-Thi is pronounced "koh-thee," with a soft "th.")

Ko-Thi Dance Company explores African roots in Martin Luther King Week UI residency

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Ko-Thi Dance Company, Wisconsin's largest African-American arts organization, will help the University of Iowa celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday with a full-week residency, culminating with a performance at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, in Hancher Auditorium.

The performance will feature dances from Haiti, Nigeria, Jamaica, Liberia, Senegal and Cuba -- showing a variety of traditions that have developed from African dance. Artistic Director Feme Yangyeitie Caulker will offer a free pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m. in the Hancher Greenroom for interested audience members.

The public is also invited to a free mini-performance with commentary, followed by a question-and-answer session, at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21, in the UI Museum of Art.

The residency will include activities for students at the Johnson School of the Arts and McKinley Middle School in Cedar Rapids, and Washington Elementary and Mt. Vernon Middle School in Mt. Vernon. School groups from around the region will attend a Jan. 21 Hancher matinee performance as part of the Stage Door series.

At its home base in Milwaukee and on tour, the Ko-Thi Dance Company is dedicated to preserving and performing African, African-American and Caribbean dance traditions, with all their flair, rhythmic energy and spiritual depth. The company uses a wide variety of drums and other traditional instruments, as well as authentic costumes and ornamentation, to produce electrifying performances.

Caulker, a native of the West African country of Sierra Leone and a 1994 Fulbright Scholar, founded the Ko-Thi Dance Company in 1969. The word "Ko-Thi" means "to go black" in the Shebro language, representing the company's interest in searching for African culture throughout the Diaspora of African peoples.

The company is a professional affiliate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where Caulker is a faculty member, and the company's rehearsals are held at the university's department of theater and dance. The company also has an on-going partnership with the Milwaukee High School of the Arts.

The company has presented performances and residencies throughout the country, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Dance Africa Festival and Lincoln Center in New York City, and has also toured internationally. Ko-Thi has been honored by selection as a national touring company for Dance USA.

In recognition of her accomplishments, Caulker was named Milwaukee's Woman of the Year in 1986, and she was inducted into the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters in 1990.

UI Men's Intercollegiate Athletics is the sponsor of the concert, through the University of Iowa Foundation. The performance and residency are supported by the Heartland Arts Fund.

Tickets for the Jan. 22 Hancher concert are $26, $23 and $20. 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.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. Learn more about the Ko-Thi Dance Company on the World Wide Web at