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Release: Oct. 22, 1999

‘FAST FORWARD/Dance Gala ‘99’ concludes Brown’s long UI career as artistic director

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Dance Company’s artistic director, Alicia Brown, has described the "FAST FORWARD/Dance Gala ‘99" program as a "millennium quilt," a wild but warm and comfy assemblage of diverse dance elements for the end of the 20th century. But the UI Dance Company’s millennium also involves a change more consequential than a flip of the odometer. This production at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 12 and 13, in Hancher Auditorium, will be the final Dance Gala for Brown, who is retiring after 24 years on the UI Dance Department faculty and 20 years as artistic director, including every Dance Gala staged in Hancher.

Brown is modestly marking the moment by staging a new solo, "Journey," with the help of two of her long-time UI collaborators, scenic designer Margaret Wenk and lighting designer David Thayer, an emeritus faculty member in the UI Department of Theatre Arts.

As she approaches her final Dance Gala, Brown says, "It's been a joy! Looking back, it has been a wonderful experience for me, our young dancers and, hopefully, our audiences who have watched our department grow and prosper.

"I will miss seeing the dancers develop in their rehearsals and in performance . . . that is a thrill that I will always remember. I will also miss the talented choreographers of the past and present who are at the UI as well as the many guest artists and guest choreographers who made our lives richer. I have learned a great deal in doing this and have always followed a vision of excellence, creative energy, enthusiasm, and going beyond what one thinks they can do as well as believe in succeeding -- Dance Gala has proven that."

A highlight of the Nov. 12 and 13 performances will be videotape and print retrospectives of the 18 previous Dance Gala productions, including complete listings of all dance works performed, choreographers and guest artists since 1981.

In addition to works by faculty members Charlotte Adams ("The Poetry of Physics," using music of Rossini), Dance Department chair David Berkey ("Big Sleeves, Naked Shoulders," set to popular songs of the ‘60s including "Rescue Me," "I Will Follow Him" and the theme from the TV classic "Route 66"), Alan Sener ("Java Mozart," set to Mozart’s String Quintet in B-flat Major), and Armando Duarte, the "FAST FORWARD" program will feature contributions by three guest artists -- ballet choreographers Joan Buttram and Diane Coburn-Bruning, and Chicago’s Billy Siegenfeld, director of the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project.

With his Jump Rhythm Dance Project, an international touring ensemble of dancer-singer-actors and musicians, Siegenfeld celebrates the dancing that is created and performed to the exuberant syncopated rhythms of jazz, the blues and Latin music. His work recently attracted the 1997 Ruth Page Dance Achievement Award for Outstanding Choreography. A Dance Magazine review concluded, "his Jump Rhythm makes the stage sizzle and the audience yell for more."

Siegenfeld’s contribution to the Dance Gala is "Getting to It," an ensemble work set to the music of jazz bassist Christian McBride.

Buttram, the artistic director of the University of Georgia Ballet Ensemble, is setting a pointe piece for five women to Leonard Bernstein’s well-known overture to "Candide." Coburn-Bruning is a New York-based choreographer whose works have been featured by companies in the United States and Mexico including the Boston Ballet, the Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Pennsylvania Ballet and Ballet Hispanico. She has taught for the New York City Ballet Education Department and the Lincoln Center Institute. Her "Berceuse" is a pas de deux set to music of Benjamin Godard.

Another special Dance Gala guest artist will come from within the UI. For his resetting of the duet "Prelude," which had its premiere at the Space/Place Theatre last spring, Duarte has tapped his fellow Brazilian Tadeu Coelho, a member of the School of Music faculty. Coelho will provide a live flute performance of Debussy’s "Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun," using a MIDI-generated orchestral accompaniment to make a solo performance of this large-ensemble composition possible.

Tickets for "FAST FORWARD/Dance Gala ‘99" are $16 and $14 ($12 and $10 for UI students and senior citizens, and $8 and $7 for audience members 17 and younger. Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Audience members who wish to provide additional, much-needed financial support to the UI Dance Department -- and recognize Brown’s contributions to dance at the UI -- should purchase a $30 patron ticket.

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

For UI arts news and information, and arts calendar updates, visit the ArtsIowa website, <>.