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Release: March 23, 2001

(NOTE TO EDITORS: To arrange interviews, contact Dawn Leader of the Joffrey directly, <>; 312-739-0120, extension 28,)

Joffrey Ballet of Chicago returns to UI Hancher Auditorium for performances April 13-14

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago will return to the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium, the site of several of its most high-profile premieres, for mixed-repertory performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 13-14.

In addition to the Joffrey evergreen "Viva Vivaldi," choreographed in 1965 by Joffrey Artistic Director Gerald Arpino, and Arpino’s 1968 duet "Secret Places," set to music by Mozart, both performances will feature two Joffrey Iowa City premieres: Antony Tudor’s 1936 "Lilac Garden," which has just been added to the Joffrey repertory; and "Creative Force," created in 1999 by contemporary choreographer Laura Dean, who has been the recipient of several Hancher commissions and premieres.

Harriett Ross, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago artistic administrator, will be the special guest at the pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m. April 14 in the Hancher Greenroom. The discussion is free to all ticketholders for the Saturday performance. Seating is limited.

The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago company includes Iowa City native Deanne Brown, who studied with early Joffrey veteran Francoise Martinet of the UI dance department faculty. Brown says, "Francoise taught me not only technique and styles from her own experience as a former Joffrey dancer, but many other valuable lessons in discipline, dedication and professionalism as well." Martinet is now retired and lives in Iowa City. Brown, who was previously a member of the Tulsa Ballet Theatre, joined the Joffrey in 1996.

Critic Sid Smith of the Chicago Tribune described "Creative Force" as a "smashing new work and instant classic" that "celebrates the joy of being alive as only dance can." Dean, who gained fame for geometric dances filled with perpetually spinning dancers, has created work for her own company through Hancher support, but she also contributed to the Hancher-produced Joffrey/Prince collaboration, "Billboards," and her "Force Field" was given its world premiere in Hancher by the Joffrey.

Tudor created "Lilac Garden" for England’s Ballet Rambert, and the dance was brought to the United States by American Ballet Theatre. The ballet expresses the drama of a young woman who must say farewell to her lover on the eve of her arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

Agnes DeMille called the flashy, Spanish-flavored "Viva Vivaldi," which the Joffrey has performed several times in Hancher, "a study in joyous abstraction" that is "sheer delight." The Joffrey performed "Secret Places" during its very first engagement in Hancher, in 1974.

Founded in 1956 by Robert Joffrey and Arpino, the Joffrey Ballet was the prototype of the distinctly "American" ballet company -- rooted in high standards of classical technique, but adventurously open to contemporary styles of music and movement.

The Joffrey Ballet was firmly established as one of the "big three" ballet companies in the United States (the other two being American Ballet Theater and the New York City Ballet) when a National Endowment for the Arts touring program enabled Hancher to present the company at the UI for the first time in 1974.

Regular return engagements, which nurtured a growing body of Iowa fans, led to discussions of sponsoring a Joffrey Ballet residency in Iowa. Hosting the main company appeared to be financially unfeasible at that time, but the discussions led to the creation of the trailblazing Iowa Dance Residencies program, which hosted three long-term summer residencies by the Joffrey II Dancers in the early 1980s. A generation of Joffrey dancers benefited from formative experiences in Iowa.

The success of those residencies, which took the Joffrey second company into Iowa communities large and small, prompted Hancher’s first commissioning project -- James Kudelka’s "The Heart of the Matter," which was premiered in Hancher as part of the 1985 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Center for the Arts. That project launched Hancher into an era of artistic entrepreneurship that has brought the auditorium a worldwide reputation as a creative center.

The extensive Joffrey/Iowa partnership -- totaling more than 75 performances by Joffrey companies in Hancher alone -- is best-known for two large-scale Hancher-commissioned productions that were both artistic successes and important elements of the Joffrey’s survival through tough financial times: the 1987 production of "The Nutcracker," which was Robert Joffrey’s final production; and "Billboards" in 1993, America’s first full-length rock ballet, featuring music by Prince and movement by Dean and three other contemporary choreographers.

During a summer residency at the UI before the "Nutcracker" world premiere, the Joffrey did the bulk of its work on the landmark reconstruction of the Stravinsky/Nijinsky "Le Sacre du Printemps," (The Rite of Spring) including the production’s first full run-through, on the Hancher stage.

After the "Nutcracker" premiere, the Joffrey took a corps of Iowa City children to Washington, D.C., to perform a two-week run with the company in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Iowa City and the University of Iowa became known as the Midwest home of the Joffrey during the 1980s and early ‘90s, but in 1995 the company established permanent residency in another Midwest city, becoming the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Now flourishing in America’s second city, the Joffrey Ballet returns "home" to Iowa with its vision intact -- a classically based, cutting-edge company that performs the best of the old and the new.

Gary A. and LaDonna K. Wicklund and the F. Wendell Miller Funds are sponsors of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago performances, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

Tickets for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago are $40, $35 and $30. UI students receive a 20-percent discount on Zone 1 tickets, and may purchase Zone 2 and 3 tickets for $10. Senior citizens qualify for a 20-percent discount on all tickets, and tickets for children 17 and younger are half price.

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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. 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 <>. To learn more about the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, visit <>.