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Release: Oct. 15, 1999

Lar Lubovitch comes home to UI with American Ballet Theater commission

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- World-renowned choreographer Lar Lubovitch will come home to the University of Iowa when the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) performs his newest work at 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 2 and 3 in Hancher Auditorium. Hancher commissioned the new work -- as yet untitled -- for its Millennium Festival, the nation's most ambitious and extensive performing-arts millennium celebration.

Lubovitch's new work, choreographed to music by Franz Schubert, contemporary English composer Gavin Bryars, and Ferruccio Busoni, will share the ABT bill with "Push Comes to Shove" by Twyla Tharp and the revival of Robert Joffrey's "Pas des Deesses," a nostalgic tribute to the styles and personalities of some of the greatest ballerinas of the 19th century.

Lubovitch will participate in a "What Makes It Great" discussion -- "Dance is About Dancing" -- at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 1 in the Iowa City Public Library. The event will be carried live on the library's local cable channel.

The new Lubovitch choreography, which had its world premiere on Oct. 22 in New York's City Center, is his first work for ABT since the critically acclaimed "Othello" in 1997.

While he was a student at the UI, Lubovitch studied with the late Marsha Thayer in the dance department. A recent retrospective tribute to his career in New York featured a film of his first work of choreography, discovered in the archives of the UI dance department.

The inclusion of Lubovitch in the Millennium Festival is entirely appropriate because one of the inspirations for his choreographic career was a performance by the Jose Limon Dance Company that he viewed in Hancher at Thayer's urging.

In the career that has followed, Lubovitch has choreographed more than 60 works, including more than a quarter century of creations for his globetrotting Lar Lubovitch Dance Company. His works -- renowned for their musicality, rhapsodic style, humanistic themes and sophisticated formal structures -- are featured in the repertories of prominent dance companies around the world, including the New York City Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Lubovitch has also made a notable contribution to the advancement of choreography in the field of ice dancing. He has created dances for Olympic gold medalists John Curry, Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill and choreographed a full-length ice dancing version of "The Sleeping Beauty," broadcast throughout Great Britain and America in 1988. His most recent ice dancing venture was "The Planets," featuring Canadian Olympic skaters Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay and Brian Orser, broadcast on the A&E cable channel.

He made his Broadway debut in 1987 with the musical staging of the Stephen Sondheim/James Lapine musical "Into the Woods," for which he received his first Tony Award nomination. Most recently on Broadway he choreographed the infamous "Dance of the Seven Veils" for the Circle in the Square production of "Salome," as well as "The Red Shoes."

For his work on "The Red Shoes," Lubovitch received the 1993-94 Astaire Award from the Theatre Development Fund. The telecast of his dance "Fandango," as part of the PBS series "Great Performances," was honored with an international Emmy Award.

Herbert A. and Janice A. Wilson are the Hancher commission sponsors for Lar Lubovitch through the University of Iowa Foundation. The commission is also supported through Hancher by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Well into its sixth decade, American Ballet Theatre is recognized as one of the great dance companies in the world. ABT annually tours the United States, performing for more than 600,000 people. It has made more than 15 international tours to 41 countries.

The repertoire, perhaps unmatched in the history of ballet, includes all of the great full-length ballets of the 19th century, landmark works from the early part of this century, and acclaimed contemporary masterpieces. ABT has commissioned works by many of the choreographic geniuses of the 20th century, including George Balanchine, Antony Tudor, Jerome Robbins, Agnes de Mille and Twyla Tharp.

For many ballet fans, ABT will always be associated with Mikhail Baryshnikov, who became artistic director in 1990. In 1992, former ABT principal dancer Kevin McKenzie was appointed artistic director.

Hancher's season-spanning Millennium 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.

Since the festival highlights Hancher's commitment to commissioning, all three works on the American Ballet Theatre program fit the Millennium Festival emphasis. The festival opened with the world premiere of Tharp's "Diabelli," and several of Hancher's most celebrated commissions have featured the Joffrey Ballet, including the mega-productions of "The Nutcracker" in 1987 and the Joffrey/Prince collaboration, "Billboards," in 1993.

Tharp created "Push Comes to Shove" for Baryshnikov, and the piece is now used to spotlight the company's male principal dancers, whom the New York Times has lauded as the strongest group of male stars in the world of ballet.

"Pas des Deesses" was not only performed by the Joffrey II Dancers in Hancher as part of the trailblazing Iowa Dance Residencies program in the early 1980s, but it was also set on UI dancers by longtime faculty member Francoise Martinet, one of Joffrey's first ballerinas. ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie also danced in the work when he was a member of the Joffrey Ballet.

"Pas des Deesses" was set on ABT by Brunilda Ruiz, who was Martinet's contemporary in the Joffrey Ballet.

In addition to the Lubovitch choreography for ABT and the Tharp "Diabelli," new works have been created -- or are being created -- for the Millennium Festival by theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Ushio Amagatsu, Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers including Richard Danielpour, Cedar Rapids native Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield, and UI alumnus David Lang.

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

Tickets for American Ballet Theatre are $49, $44 and $39. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount, with Zone 3 tickets available to UI students for $10 -- a discount of nearly 75 percent. Tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays, and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. 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.

Learn more about the American Ballet Theatre on the World Wide Web at <>. For UI arts news and information, and arts calendar updates, visit the ArtsIowa website, <>.

(NOTE TO EDITORS: We expect to learn the title of the new work in the next few days -- certainly by the time of the Oct. 22 New York premiere. We will issue a follow-up release as soon as we have the title.)

(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: "Pas des Deesses" is pronounced "pah day Day-ESS")