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Release: March 3, 2000

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company premieres 'You Walk?' at Hancher

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will present the world premiere of "You Walk?," Jones' latest concert-length work, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 24-25, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. The work is part of Hancher's 1999-2000 Millennium Festival, the nation's most ambitious and extensive performing-arts millennium celebration.

"You Walk?" takes its name from the epic poem "Omeros," by Nobel Prize-winning Caribbean poet Derrick Walcott. The poem draws its themes from many African-American slave songs and stories that express the dream of returning to some "original" home.

The idea of the journey, quest or migration became the inspiration for Jones' choreography, beginning with both the movement and metaphorical possibilities of walking, and expanding into a suite of abstract movement. In representing the global meaning of "home," both historical and geographical, the dance draws music from the disparate cultures of East Africa, medieval Spain, the Amazon, Central America and Portugal, as well as the United States.

The impetus for "You Walk?" was a commission by Arena del Sole in Bologna, Italy, the European Union Cultural Capitol for the year 2000. Because the festival is dedicated to Mediterranean culture, Jones was asked to create a work illustrating the influence of the Mediterranean on the New World. In response to that challenge, Jones spent months researching music, visiting Latin America and experimenting with movement.

The actual creation of the dance with his company coincided with performances of Jones' solo concert, "The Breathing Show," which had its world premiere in Hancher last fall.

Jones attracted both fame and controversy for a series of dance/theater works that unflinchingly confronted issues of race, sexual orientation, religious faith and disease. Several of these works, including "The Last Supper at Uncle Tom's Cabin/The Promised Land" and "Still/Here," were co-commissioned by and performed in Hancher.

"Still/Here," which addressed the challenges of living with terminal illness, was based on "survival workshops" conducted in Iowa City and several other locations around the country. The images and words of Iowans facing life-threatening illnesses played a prominent role in the production, which was the subject of a PBS special by Bill Moyers, partially videotaped at the UI.

But in recent years Jones has moved away from boldly political and topical themes to dance that is more abstract, lyrical and evocative, including "We Set Out Early . . . Visibility Was Poor," which was performed in Hancher last spring.

Jones has come to be recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation. In 1994 Jones was honored with a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant," and among his many other honors are National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, "Bessie" Awards and the Dance Magazine Award. In 1995 he published the memoir "Last Night on Earth."

In addition to creating work for his own Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, which he founded with his late partner, Jones has received commissions from modern and ballet companies, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet (to which he was appointed Resident Choreographer in 1994), and Berlin Opera Ballet.

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.

In addition to the "You Walk?" new works have been created by artists including theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Twyla Tharp, Ushio Amagatsu, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Susan Marshall, Paul Taylor, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield and UI alumnus David Lang.

Performances of the commissioned works have involved prominent ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, Twyla Tharp Dance, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Bang on a Can, the Kronos Quartet, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sankai Juku, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.

The Hancher co-commission of "You Walk?" was supported by Gerald J. and Sandra C. Eskin through the University of Iowa Foundation, and by grant funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition to Arena del Sole, co-commissioners include the Lincoln Center Festival, the National Dance Project, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival and Whitebird Productions.

Tickets for "You Walk?" are $30, $26 and $22. 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 or younger are half price.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area dial 335-1160. Long distance 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.

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