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Release: Oct. 16, 2000


Practical Paul Taylor has taken Hancher-commissioned 'Arabesque' around the globe

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Paul Taylor has been described as "the world’s greatest living choreographer," but he is also a very practical director of his busy, globe-trotting dance company. When the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium commissioned new Paul Taylor choreography for an Oct. 15-16, 1999 world premiere on its Millennium Festival, Taylor set about creating a work that would function well within his active repertory as a regular element of his company’s performances.

"I start with very practical reasons," Taylor explained at the UI during the week of the premiere. "I look over the repertory to see what kind of piece might be good as a contrast to some of the others, to make a balanced program with a beginning, a middle and an end. And I look at the dancers to see who needs a chance and who is overloaded, and what the budget is and how long the rehearsal period is."

The piece he created for Hancher, "Arabesque" -- which Taylor described as "a little exotic, almost like a fantasy" -- has served those functions well, taking its Iowa imprimatur around the world to numerous performances and consistent critical acclaim.

By the end of 2000, the work will have been performed in Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Vermont, North Carolina, Tennessee, California and Washington, D.C., in this country, including City Center in New York, the Kennedy Center and the American Dance Festival. Foreign tour locations include Italy, France and the Dominican Republic.

The Kennedy Center News in Washington, D.C., proclaimed, " ‘Arabesque,’ created just this year, has already joined the ranks of Taylor classics."

New York Post veteran critic Clive Barnes declared "Arabesque," a "perfectly crafted work of art . . . His impeccable choreography offers, apart from anything else, a perfect environment for dancers, but luckily for audiences it is an environment of an ever-variable emotional climate and poetic atmosphere."

Anna Kisselgoff of the New York Times called "Arabesque" "one of Mr. Taylor’s most intriguing pieces. . . highly pleasing to the eye and ear," adding, "the work’s deepest values lie in its experiments with structure, extraordinary speed and music."

Newsday praised the work for "fierce, impossibly swift dancing that blends earthy ferocity with skimming airiness," and Christie Taylor of the Boston Herald characterized the piece as "the perfect example of Taylor on a roll."

The critic of the Times of India wrote, " ‘Arabesque’ is intriguing, mysterious and dark, with almost troubling undertones. But Taylor, 69, is so innovative and inventive, and his dancers respond so readily to his requirements for speed, that his unusual new dance was accepted as a treat. . . ‘Arabesque’ had its premiere in October in Iowa City, Iowa."

"I always talk about commissioning as a risk," says Wallace Chappell, director of Hancher Auditorium. "But Paul Taylor is such a master, and creates work at such a consistently high standard, that we were confident that he would produce a beautiful piece for the Millennium Festival. And yet, in many ways, ‘Arabesque’ was more striking than we could have imagined. We all came away from the premiere with a satisfying sense of pride that we had played a role in enabling him to create a piece that rightfully takes its place among his most stunning works, and that serves both his dancers and his audiences so well."

The Paul Taylor commission was supported by Richard H. and Mary Jo Stanley of Muscatine.

The Hancher Millennium Festival was the most extensive and ambitious performing-arts millennium celebration in the United States. The season-spanning festival featured more than 20 major commissions in music, theater and dance.

In addition to "Arabesque," new works were presented by theater visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Susan Marshall, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch, Ushio Amagatsu, Bill T. Jones, Twyla Tharp and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar; and composers including Richard Danielpour, Michael Daugherty, Paul Schoenfield and UI alumnus David Lang.

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

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. Visit the Paul Taylor Dance Company, including numerous images of "Arabesque," at <>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.