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Release: Feb. 8, 2001

Aeros combines world-class gymnasts from Romania with playful American choreographers

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Aeros -- a collaboration of the medal-winning Romanian Gymnastics Federation; playful American choreographer/directors Moses Pendleton, David Parsons and Daniel Ezralow; and "Stomp" creators Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas -- will be presented by the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Not exactly gymnastics and not exactly dance, Aeros is a new form of entertainment that builds on the strength, equilibrium and technical skill of 20 of the world’s finest athletes -- sort of a theatrical interpretation of the beauty and expertise of gymnastics that bends and blends the line between art and sport.

The production features music by Toronto’s Two Tall Guys Music Lab, who created the music for USA Network’s "La Femme Nikita," the HBO cartoon series "George and Martha" and other cinema and TV projects; and sets by Michael Curry, who created the animal costumes for Disney’s Broadway version of "The Lion King."

Calling the production an "explosive fusion of gymnastics and modern dance," San Francisco Chronicle critic Octavio Roca wrote, "A lot can be said about Aeros, above all that it works. . . . It is a strange combination of sensibilities. Yet art and sports find common ground in entertainment and -- make no mistake -- Aeros smiles through the best of both worlds.

"There is something ineffably beautiful about Aeros, and also something very exciting. . . . Aeros captures the visceral thrill of Olympic gymnastics, caresses it into a more intimate level and glories in the natural grace of the human body. It doesn’t hurt that these 20 Romanian gymnasts are not only attractive but also so very likable. That is a gift. And the fact that there are strong personalities on stage goes a long way to explain the cheers."

William Glackin wrote in the Sacramento Bee, " Beforehand, it was hard to guess what this brilliant team of dance and theater people was going to do with top competitors from the Romanian Gymnasts Federation. When it was over, it was clear they had all created a show that was a remarkable combination of both arts . . . two hours of visual fun and terrific physical achievement."

Pendleton, the legendary founder of Pilobolus Dance Theatre and Momix, explains, "An interesting kind of concept is to take these movements and with lighting and music, you make it look not like gymnastic display or an aerobic class, but something that is just celebrating emotion, or creating -- through light and sound -- the illusion of flight."

David Parsons, who has presented commissioned world premieres at Hancher and whose signature piece, "Caught," epitomizes "the illusion of flight," describes Aeros as "a new way of presenting gymnastics. . . Meeting them half-way to the movement is what I’m interested in. Taking what they do (and they are very proficient at it!) and try to make it have more of a human element."

Ezralow, who emerged from Pilobolus to found the ISO dance company, says, "They are different worlds. And the interesting thing is: What is the marriage of these two worlds?"

The young athletes they chose include four world champions -- all-around gymnast Daniela Maranduca, rhythmic gymnast Elena Gioia, pommel horse specialist Daniel Banabas and vaulter Cristian Leric.

The Romanian Gymnastics Federation is one of the oldest and most successful sports federations in the world. The federation oversees gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and sports aerobics, preparing athletes to compete at the elite levels of international competition.

Among the many female world and Olympic medallists developed and sponsored by the federation are Nadia Comaneci, triple Olympic Gold Medallists Daniela Silivas and Ecaterina Szabo, and, of course, the Gold Medal-winning team in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

But, as Ezralow notes, very few of the athletes have had dance training, which created challenges for both the choreographers and the performers. "It’s their first time on stage, and they had never felt what it was like being on stage before. But they quickly adapted and they got very excited about the whole project," he says.

For the choreographers, the project demanded a new way of communication, and the flexibility to work with athletes with very different skills than the dancers they are accustomed to directing. "I think the key is that we all learn how to adapt the physical language of these bodies," Ezralow explains, "These are phenomenal bodies that fly through space. If you ask a dancer to do a double flip, it’s quite difficult. You ask these guys, and it’s instant.

"These people have bodies that are so highly trained they can jump and fly and fall out of the air, and if you asked any dancer to do that you would be injuring them in a second. These guys are all trained with a high-impact form of movement that is really explosive onstage. You marvel at their bodies flying through the air. . . it allows you to express things in a very different way. Our hope is that you have something you have never seen before."

Gary A. and LaDonna K. Wicklund are the major sponsors of the Aeros performance in Hancher, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for Aeros are $28, $25 and $20. UI students and senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount on all tickets, and tickets for audience members 17 and younger are half price. Zone 2 and 3 tickets are available to UI students for $10.

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 (319) 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. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <>. 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 information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>. Learn more about Aeros at <>.