CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
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Release: Sept. 18, 2000
(NOTE TO EDITORS: This is one in a series of stories that revisit the commissioned
works that were part of the 1999-2000 Millennium Festival at the University
of Iowa Hancher Auditorium. We will document how the works have developed
or changed, where they have been performed, what the critics have said, and
in some cases how the artists themselves gauge the works.)
ONE YEAR AFTER THE MILLENNIUM (FESTIVAL)
Hancher-commissioned Diabelli fits in series of Twyla Tharp
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The official kickoff of the 1999-2000 Millennium Festival
at the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium was the U.S. premiere of Twyla
Tharps "Diabelli," Sept. 17 and 18, 1999. The "Diabelli
Variations," Beethovens final major composition for piano, was
performed live on stage by Paige Hoffman; and the production also featured
costumes by the noted international fashion designer Geoffrey Beene.
"Diabelli" was immediately hailed as a masterpiece after its summer
1999 world premiere in London. Ann Williams wrote in Englands Ballet
magazine, "If proof was needed that Twyla Tharp is a genius of a choreographer,
it was provided last night in her Diabelli performed at the Barbican
"I was totally captivated by the seamless, enticing communication between
the dancing and the playing," the critic for the Spectator wrote. "Diabelli
shows clearly that her creative genius is back in full force and at its best."
And Clement Crisp wrote in the Financial Times, "Diabelli
is dance uncompromising, bold. . . . Tharps view of Beethoven is both
honest and honourable and, no greater praise, illuminating."
Because "Diabelli" was performed by an ad hoc company and required
a live pianist, the work was not performed many times, but it played an important
role in Tharps development of a cycle of dances set to music by Beethoven,
leading to the formation of a new Tharp company.
The cycle, which began with "Grosse Sonate" at the American Dance
Festival and "Diabelli" in London, Paris and Iowa City, culminated
with "Hammerklavier" and, most prominently, "Beethovens
Seventh" for the New York City Ballet.
Tharp described two motivations for her Beethoven pieces to Anna Kisselgoff
of the New York Times. "I wanted to examine the Romantic material because
I find the aesthetics of the 20th century hopelessly barren," she said.
"So Im going back to early Romanticism, to what was overreacted
Kisselgoff reported, "The second reason was her interest in how
Beethoven kept faith with his craft and art as he lost his instrument.
she said. Referring to Beethovens deafness, she acknowledged that she
no longer dances as before despite a daily visit to the gym. Im
losing my primary instrument as a dancer, she remarked. And when
that is lost, you either have to find a new way or stop. I was not interested
in stopping. I was interested in how Beethoven did it. He was a virtuoso at
the piano, and although he couldnt hear the music, he was unbelievably
physical in his conducting. Movement precedes music. And his moving through
daily life motivated the music."
At this turning point in her illustrious career, Tharp did find "a
new way," and she recently unveiled a new, standing company at the American
Dance Festival, after 12 years of freelancing. Tharp, who disbanded her earlier
company due to the financial and administrative headaches of maintaining an
organization, explained simply, "I need to be grounded again in my own
Tharp has created more than 100 dances during the last four decades, putting
her indelible, idiosyncratic stamp on contemporary dance. She has choreographed
five Hollywood movies, has written a best-selling autobiography, and has been
honored with two Emmy Awards, 15 honorary doctorates and a MacArthur Foundation
In addition to her own companies, distinguished classical and contemporary
dance companies throughout the world, including the Paris Opera Ballet, the
Royal Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance, the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theater
and the Martha Graham Dance Company, have performed her works.
In addition to her work in films -- "Hair," "Ragtime,"
"Amadeus," "White Nights" and "Ill Do Anything"
-- Tharps best-known works include "Deuce Coupe" for the Joffrey
Ballet, "Push Comes to Shove" for Mikhail Baryshnikov, "Nine
Sinatra Songs," "In the Upper Room" in collaboration with Philip
Glass, "The Catherine Wheel" in collaboration with David Byrne,
and her 1985 staging of "Singin in the Rain." "Cutting
Up," which she performed with Mikhail Baryshnikov, became one of contemporary
dances most successful tours, including sold-out performances in Hancher.
The commission of "Diabelli" was supported by H. John and Florence
M. Hawkinson of Wilmette, Ill., and by the National Endowment for the Arts.
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 "Diabelli," new works were presented by theater
visionary Robert Lepage; choreographers Paul Taylor, UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch,
Susan Marshall, Bill T. Jones, Ushio Amagatsu 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, the Australian Chamber
Orchestra, Sankai Juku, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, the Bill T.
Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, the Paul Taylor Dance Company, the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson
Trio, the Ahn Trio and the Ethos Percussion Group.
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